José Azar, Ioana Marinescu and Marshall Steinbaum ‘Labour Market Concentration’ NBER Working Paper No. 24147

The paper – which can be found here – seeks to quantify the level of labour market concentration across a wide range of occupations and for almost every commuting zone in the US. In a nutshell, it finds that labour market concentration is high, and that higher concentration is associated with significantly lower posted wages. Given current high concentration levels in labour markets, mergers have the potential to significantly increase labour market power. The authors argue that this type of analysis could be used by antitrust agencies to assess whether mergers can create anti-competitive effects in labour markets. With this, they seek to challenge how little attention antitrust regulators have devoted to labour markets, despite the labour economics literature finding that firms can have substantial market power in these markets. The paper is structured as follows: Section 2 describes the data and how the paper will go about measuring labour market concentration. They use proprietary data from CareerBuilder.com, the largest…

Ioana Marinescu and Herbert Hovenkamp ‘Anticompetitive Mergers in Labour Markets’ (forthcoming) Indiana Law Journal (2018)

The paper – which can be found here – looks at mergers that facilitate anticompetitive wage and salary suppression from an antitrust perspective. It also looks at other potentially anticompetitive practice in labour markets, so the paper’s title is misleading. The paper’s fundamental argument is that that antitrust law is under-enforced as regards mergers affecting employment markets, and that this is important for several reasons. First, the share of the gross domestic product (GDP) going to labour has been declining at an alarming rate, and this seems to be correlated with an increase in market concentration. Second, US antitrust law does not condemn unilateral price setting by dominant firms – including the setting of wages. A second best solution to the problem of suppressed wages can therefore be found in merger law, which can interdict wage-suppressing mergers before they occur. Third, antitrust law is properly directed at all output reducing practices, and there is certainly no principled reason for excluding…

Suresh Naidu, Eric A. Posner, and E. Glen Weyl ‘Antitrust Remedies for Labor Market Power’ Harvard Law Review (forthcoming)

The paper – which can be found here –  criticises the historic imbalance between product and labour market antitrust enforcement, which has no basis in economic theory: from an economic standpoint, the dangers to public welfare posed by product and labour market power are exactly the same. It is argued that antitrust agencies should take more seriously the danger that mergers may lead to labour market power as well as product market power. The paper is organised as follows: The introduction tries to explain why antitrust has traditionally ignored labour markets. Four explanations are advanced: (i) while economic theory treats product and labour markets similarly, legal theory has placed more emphasis on product markets as a result of a focus on consumer welfare; (ii) it was assumed that labour markets are reasonably competitive, and that labour market power was not an important social problem; (iii) the traditional legal approach to protecting workers, which took place “outside” antitrust law, may have…