The Marginal Product of Labor

The marginal product of labor also depends on the other inputs available in an economy. An economy with more physical or human capital, for example, is one in which workers will be more productive. Increases in other inputs shift the labor demand curve rightward. The point where the labor supply and labor demand curves meet is the point of equilibrium in the labor market. At the equilibrium real wage, the number of hours that workers want to work exactly matches the number of hours that firms wish to use.¬† “Equilibrium in the Labor Market” shows that equilibrium in the labor market tells us two things: the real wage in the economy and how many hours of work go into the aggregate production function. The Mobility of Labor In November 2004, the median hourly wage in Florida was $12.50. In Washington State, it was $16.07. On average, in other words, wages were almost 30 percent higher in the Northwest compared to the Southeast. To take a more specific example, the median wage for health-care support occupations (dental assistants, pharmacy aides, hospital orderlies, etc.) was $8.14 in Mississippi and $12.81 in Massachusetts. Dental assistants who moved from Baton Rouge to Boston could expect to see about a 50 percent increase in their hourly wage. [2] People in the United States are free to move from state to state, and many people do indeed move from one state to another every year. People move for many reasons: to go to college, join a girlfriend or boyfriend, or move to the place where they have always dreamed of living (such as New York; Los Angeles; or Burr Ridge, Illinois). People also move to take up new jobs, and one of the things that induces them to take one job rather than another is the wage that it pays. Different wages in different places therefore affect the patterns of migration across the United States. Figure 5.5 “Labor Markets in Florida and Washington State” shows the labor markets in Florida and Washington State for November 2004. The cost of living was different in those two states but, to keep our story simple, we ignore these differences. That is, we assume that there is no difference in the price level in the two states. If we set 2004 as the base year, the price level is 1. This means that the real wage is the same as the nominal wage. A more careful analysis would correct for differences in state taxes and the cost of living.

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