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Understanding the impact of recession on labour market behaviour in Britain

This research project has been completed. Please contact a team member for further information.

Understanding the impact of recession on labour market behaviour in Britain is a programme of research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

This integrated, comprehensive and innovative programme investigates the labour market responses of individuals and households to economic recession.

The programme is made up of four projects which focus on:

  • developing a theoretical framework within which to model the impact of the business cycle on employment and wages which will then feed into the empirical analysis
  • investigating the impact of recession on children and young people, their educational ambitions and attainment, their first labour market experiences and employment trajectories, and their longer-term productivity
  • investigating the impact of recession on people of working age, in terms of responses to wage and working hours constraints, resulting occupational and industrial mobility and their consequences, unemployment experiences, and the role of education and skills as a buffer during the recession
  • investigating the impact of recession on households in terms of within-household patterns of labour market participation and working hours, patterns of job loss and the distribution of complete and partial income losses within households


This research is particularly timely, given that the British economy is currently emerging from its first recession in almost twenty years, during which GDP fell by more than in the recessions of the early 1980s and 1990s.

Furthermore, in terms of loss of output, this recession was the worst since the Second World War. Despite this, unemployment rates have remained lower than in the recessions of the ’80s and ‘90s, while employment rates have remained relatively high. Instead, there is evidence that the recession affected earnings and hours, with negative earnings growth through 2009 and increases in the proportions of men and women working part-time rather than full-time.


The programme will draw on the data sources listed, and the researchers will also collect and analyse their own qualitative data.

The BHPS/Understanding Society follow the same nationally representative sample of individuals annually over a relatively long period of time – a time-span that includes both economic growth and recession. They include a youth component that from 1994 onwards collects information on 11–15 year olds and their attitudes and ambitions (who can then be followed through their early years in the labour market) and provide the household context, allowing the researchers to relate the behaviour of all individuals within each household.

The advantage of the LFS is its long time-span (biannual from 1975–1981, annual from 1983–1991, and quarterly from 1992–2010; and from 1990 for the household datasets), allowing the researchers to include previous recessions (although only for repeated cross-sectional analysis).

LFS data will be used to provide cross-sectional (and short-run panel) counterpart analysis. Most importantly, characteristics of the local labour market (e.g. average wages, employment and unemployment rates, and hirings at the local level) can be computed from LFS data, which we then merge into the BHPS and LSYPE (by month, year, county and, where sample sizes permit, by age, gender and local authority district) and use as key indicators of the macro-economic climate.

The qualitative element of the project will interview up to 20 couple households where one partner has reduced their hours or stopped working during the recession. In depth interviews with each couple member will be carried out in people’s homes to gain independent views on the processes involved. Interviews will be taped and transcribed for analysis.

What the researchers will do

The research team will undertake four separate projects:

Project 1: Theoretical framework

The researchers will create a framework which will inform model specifications and interpretation of results producing a strong link between theory and data that provides a robust structure within which to draw policy implications.

Project 2: The recession and young people

This project provides a comprehensive analysis of how the prevailing economic climate affects young people’s behaviour.

Project 3: Workers’ responses to recession

This project investigates the likely longer-term impacts of the recession on people’s labour market behaviour.

Project 4: Household-level responses to recession

This project focuses on households’ responses to the recession.


Young people in the recovery: from false starts to rewarding careers (4 June 2014)


The long shadow of recession (14 July 2014)

Dr Mark Bryan discusses research findings from ISER’s ESRC funded project, Understanding the impact of recession on labour market behaviour in Britain, which investigates the labour market responses of individuals and households to economic recession.

How couples respond when one loses a job (14 August 2014)

Dr Karon Gush talks about research using the Understanding Society Innovation Panel to look at the responses of couples when one of them loses their job.

Team members

Dr Mark Bryan

Reader in Economics - University of Sheffield

Mark Bryan uses empirical techniques to learn more about labour market behaviour and outcomes, and to explore the impact of labour markets on individual and household well-being.

Dr Carlos Carrillo-Tudela

- University of Essex

Carlos Carrillo-Tudela is a Reader (Associate Professor) in Economics at the University of Essex, an IZA research fellow, a CESifo and CEPR research affiliate, and an ISER research associate. He is currently working in topics related to Labour Economics, Search and Matching Theory and Macroeconomics. He is also interested in Quantitative Economics and International Trade.

Professor Melvyn Coles

- University of Essex

After obtaining a first in Mathematics at Cambridge University, Melvyn Coles took the MSc in Economics and Econometrics at Southampton University and then went on to study for his PhD in Economics at Princeton University. He has been professor of Economics at the University of Essex since 1997. During the years 2003-2006 he was instead an ICREA research fellow at the IAE (Barcelona).

Professor Emilia Del Bono

Professor of Economics - ISER - University of Essex

My current research agenda is focused on the nature, causes, and consequences of disparities in children’s human capital that lead to inequalities later on in life. This research revolves around three broad themes. The first concerns the extent to which maternal health behaviours shape the health and cognitive endowment of children, as well as the effect of differences in early health endowments on later outcomes. The second theme is related to the way in which differences in educational opportunities affect later educational attainment, labour market outcomes, and long-term life chances. The third theme is concerned with the analysis of the effects of parenting, and in particular maternal time inputs, on children’s cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes. My wider research interests also include work on family dynamics, fertility, and gender issues.

Dr Karon Gush

Senior Research Officer - ISER - University of Essex

Research Interests: Gendered inequalities, Intergenerational support within families, Women’s labour market participation, The relationship between paid and unpaid labour, Transformations of work, employment and training

Professor Heather Laurie

Professor of Sociology and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) - ISER - University of Essex

Heather's research interests include women's labour market participation, the internal dynamics of the household and the distribution of resources within households, use of multiple methods in social research and survey methodology including the impact of CAPI/CATI/CAWI technologies on survey data quality and process, unit and item non-response in large scale surveys.

Dr Simonetta Longhi

Associate Professor - University of Reading

Professor Mark Taylor

Mark Taylor was Professor of Economics at ISER until August 2013.

Mr Alberto Tumino

Economic Analyst - European Commission, JRC-Sevilla


  1. The labour market impacts of leaving education when unemployment is high: evidence from Britain

    Mark P. Taylor

    1. Labour Market
    2. Unemployment
  2. The effect of local labour market conditions on educational choices: a cross country comparison

    Alberto Tumino

    1. Education
    2. Labour Market
    3. Housing Market
  3. Unemployment and endogenous reallocation over the business cycle

    Carlos Carrillo-Tudela and Ludo Visschers

    1. Labour Market
    2. Unemployment
  4. Job search, human capital and wage inequality

    Carlos Carrillo-Tudela

    1. Human Capital
    2. Labour Market
    3. Labour Economics
    4. Wages And Earnings
  5. Equilibrium labour turnover, firm growth and unemployment

    Melvyn G. Coles and Dale T. Mortensen

    1. Labour Economics
    2. Unemployment
    3. Wages And Earnings
  6. Educational aspirations and attitudes over the business cycle

    Mark P. Taylor and Tina Rampino

    1. Young People
    2. Education
    3. Households
    4. Social Attitudes
  7. The Cost of Job Loss

    Ken Burdett, Carlos Carrillo-Tudela, and Melvyn G. Coles

  8. The impact of local labour market conditions on school leaving decisions

    Alberto Tumino and Mark P. Taylor

  9. Couples’ labour supply responses to job loss: boom and recession compared

    Mark L. Bryan and Simonetta Longhi

    1. Labour Market
    2. Economics
    3. Family Formation And Dissolution
  10. Getting back into work after job loss: the role of partner effects

    Mark L. Bryan and Simonetta Longhi

    1. Labour Market
    2. Households
    3. Unemployment
  11. The scarring effect of unemployment from the early ‘90s to the Great Recession

    Alberto Tumino

    1. Labour Market
    2. Unemployment
    3. Organizations And Firms
    4. Economics
  12. Households’ responses to spousal job loss: ‘all change’ or ‘carry on as usual’?

    Karon Gush, James Scott, and Heather Laurie

    1. Unemployment
    2. Income Dynamics
    3. Household Economics
  13. Job loss and social capital: the role of family, friends and wider support networks

    Karon Gush, James Scott, and Heather Laurie

    1. Labour Market
    2. Unemployment
    3. Social Capital
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Photo credit: henrybloomfield