This paper investigates the microeconomics of employment dynamics, using a Chinese manufacturing firm-level dataset over the period 1998-2007. It does so in the light of a scheme of “circular and cumulative causation”, whereby firms’ heterogeneous productivity gains and sales dynamics, and innovation activities ultimately shape the patterns of employment dynamics. Using firm’s productivity growth as a proxy for process innovation, our results show that the latter correlates negatively with firm-level employment growth. Conversely, relative productivity levels, as such a general proxy for the broad technological advantages/disadvantages of each firm, do show positive effect on employment growth in the long-run through replicator-type dynamics. Moreover, firm-level demand dynamics play a significant role in driving employment growth, which more than compensate the labour-saving effect due to technological progress. Finally, and somewhat puzzlingly, the direct effects of product innovation and patenting activities on employment growth appear to be negligible.
Employment Growth Demand Product Innovation Process Innovation Export China catching-up