When Nurses Travel: Labor Supply Elasticity During COVID-19 Surges

37 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2020

See all articles by Joshua D. Gottlieb

Joshua D. Gottlieb

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Avi Zenilman

Yale University

Date Written: November 19, 2020


We study how short-term labor markets responded to an extraordinary demand shock during the COVID-19 pandemic. We study traveling nurse jobs—a market hospitals use to fill temporary staffing needs—to examine workers’ willingness to move to places with larger demand shocks. We find a dramatic increase in market size during the pandemic, especially for those specialties central to COVID-19 care. The number of jobs increased far more than compensation, suggesting that nurses’ willingness to travel is very responsive to compensation. To examine workers’ willingness to move across different locations, we examine jobs in different locations on the same day, and find even more responsive labor supply. We show that part of this supply responsiveness comes from workers’ willingness to travel longer distances for jobs when payment increases, suggesting that an integrated national market facilitates reallocating workers when demand surges. This implies that a simultaneous national demand spike might be harder for the market to accommodate rapidly.

Suggested Citation

Gottlieb, Joshua D. and Zenilman, Avi, When Nurses Travel: Labor Supply Elasticity During COVID-19 Surges (November 19, 2020). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2020-166, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3733681 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3733681

Joshua D. Gottlieb (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1307 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.gottlieb.ca/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://papers.nber.org/authors/joshua_gottlieb

Avi Zenilman

Yale University

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