Accounting for Mismatch Unemployment

(previously circulated under the title “Structural Unemployment”)

Benedikt Herz and Thijs van Rens


Published in the Journal of the European Economic Association, 18(4), pp.1619–1654, August 2020



We investigate unemployment due to mismatch in the United States over the past three and a half decades. We propose an accounting framework that allows us to estimate the contribution of each of the frictions that generated labor market mismatch. Barriers to job mobility account for the largest part of mismatch unemployment, with a smaller role for barriers to worker mobility. We find little contribution of wage-setting frictions to mismatch.

January 2019 [download pdf] – Also available as CEPR Discussion Paper 12972.

Online appendices

Readers familiar with previous versions of this paper (2016 or earlier) may notice the results have changed. This note explains why.

Previous versions: May 2018 (appendices), April 2016 (appendices), May 2015, also available as IZA Discussion Paper 8884.

First version: February 2011

Non-technical summaries

NEW Paying Skilled Workers More Would Create More Skilled Workers (980 words, 2 pages)
Harvard Business Review, 19 May 2016
(Wall Street Journal Must-Read Story, 20 May 2016)

The Skills Gap: Is it a Myth? (5500 words, 18 pages)
CAGE/SMF Global Perspectives Series: Paper 5, December 2015
Podcast (30 min + 30 min discussion) and slides


Media coverage:

SMEs suffering due to "growing mismatch" with labour market, European Business Review, 5 August 2019

Now Is Not a Good Time to Skimp on Worker Training, Bloomberg, 26 October 2018

Is there a ‘skills gap’?, Channel 4 News FactCheck, 3 July 2017

A press release in December 2015 was picked up by various outlets focusing on:

·        Recruitment, training and education

o   Workopolis, Canada

o   Training Journal, UK

o   Recruiting Times, UK

o   HR Reporter, Canada

o   Eddie Playfair, Principal of NewVIc, East London

·        Business

o   The Business Desk, West Midlands, UK

o   Real Business, UK

o   BusinessLine on Campus, India

·        Science and technology

o   Science Newsline, Tokyo and California

o   Technobahn, Japan

o, Canada/global

o   The Engineer, UK

o   Automotive Industry Today, US

·        Health

o   Health Medicine Network

·        Food industry

o   Food Manufacture, UK: first article & response of the industry

o   Food Processing, UK



Available on request.


Thijs van Rens  |  IDEAS/RePEc  |  Google Scholar  |  ResearchGate