Noncompetes in the U.S. Labor Force
86 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2015 Last revised: 2 Sep 2019
Date Written: August 30, 2019
Using nationally representative survey data on 11,505 labor force participants, we examine the use, implementation, and labor market outcomes associated with noncompete agreements. Nearly 1 in 5 labor force participants were bound by noncompetes in 2014, and nearly 40% had signed at least one noncompete in the past. Noncompetes are more likely to be found in high-skill, high-paying jobs, but they are also common in low-skill, low-paying jobs as well as in states that do not enforce them. Approximately 10% of employees negotiate over their noncompetes and roughly one-third of noncompetes are signed (with no additional consideration) after applicants have already accepted their job offers. Differences in the timing of the noncompete are associated with different outcomes: those presented with a noncompete before accepting the associated job offer earn 9.7% higher wages, receive 11% more training, and are 6.6% more satisfied with their position than those who are not bound by noncompetes. In contrast, those asked to sign after accepting their job offer are 12.5% less satisfied in their job and experience no wage and training benefits. We conclude that noncompetes may be efficient contracting tools under certain conditions, but also that they have the potential to serve as intertemporal conduits of monopsony power.
Keywords: covenants not to compete, monopsony power, employment law, contracts, wages, training
JEL Classification: J4, J6, K31, L41, M5
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation