Based on data from a cross section of U.S. metro areas, we show that public employment correlates negatively with business cycle volatility, hinting at a stabilizing effect of public employment, while public wages correlate weakly and positively with business cycle volatility, hinting at a destabilizing effect of public wages. To explain these relationships, we set up a search and matching model that contains a government sector and a role for government spending in product markets. This latter mechanism affects how the outside option behaves, and this mechanism can help a search and matching model to generate wage-reducing and stabilizing effects of public employment. Without this mechanism, a search and matching model cannot generate these effects.
public employment public wages business cycle volatility crowding out search and matching