We analyze the transition of the labor market to a new steady state following a reduction of negative incentives for participation. Due to labor market search and matching frictions, the transition may temporarily increase unemployment while new participants search for jobs. The formal framework is a dynamic search and matching model with an endogenous participation decision and unemployment benefits that are not conditioned on search effort (in other words, non-participants are also entitled to unemployment benefits). We employ the model to explore the mechanisms at work, and their welfare implications, following a reduction of unemployment benefits. We show that, although social welfare may be higher in the new equilibrium, the transition period involves a temporary welfare loss. We consider two alternative policy approaches: a gradual reduction versus an immediate one. We conclude that the transition period associated with a gradual reduction involves a smaller welfare loss.


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