Higher oil-price shocks benefit unskilled workers relative to skilled workers: At the business-cycle frequency, energy prices and the skill premia display a strong, negative correlation. We assess the robustness of this negative correlation using several methods and data sources, including sector-level data. We find that the negative correlation is robust to different de-trending procedures, and the wages of unskilled workers in energy-intensive industries have a larger positive correlation with oil prices. We also estimate the parameters of an aggregate technology, which uses, among other inputs, energy and heterogeneous skills. We find that both capital-skill and capital-energy complementarity are responsible for this correlation pattern. As energy prices rise, the use of capital decreases and the demand for unskilled labor relative to skilled labor increases, resulting in lower skill premia.
skill heterogeneity energy prices business cycles capital-skill complementarity