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Latin american journal of economics

versión On-line ISSN 0719-0433

Lat. Am. J. Econ. vol.53 no.1 Santiago dic. 2016 




José Tomás Peláez S.**

Lya Paola Sierra S.***

* The authors would like to thank the editor, Raimundo Soto, and an anonymous referee for their valuable suggestions.
** Professor of the Department of Economics, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali, Colombia.
*** Associate Professor of the Department of Economics, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana Cali, Colombia. Calle 18 No. 118-250 Av. Cañasgordas, Cali, Colombia. E-mail address:

To determine the effect of the real exchange rate on Colombia’s industrial employment and 59 industrial sectors for the period 2000-2010, we used the generalized method of moments of Arellano and Bond (1991) and data from the Annual Manufacturing Survey of the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE). Our findings reveal that a real appreciation of the Colombian peso decreases the country’s manufacturing employment, and disaggregation by industrial sector shows that a real appreciation of the Colombian peso had a negative impact on manufacturing employment in 18 industrial sectors and a positive impact in seven.

JEL classification: F31, F41, J23

Key words: Real exchange rate, industrial employment, Colombia


1. Introduction

Various economic analysts, among them, Reina and Cárdenas (2008) and Martinez and Aguilar (2013), have agreed on the positive dynamic that the mining-energy sector has taken in Colombia in recent years as a result of the increased domestic production of these goods, the high international prices of commodities, and foreign investment aimed at the sector. According to the Colombian Central Bank, the mining-energy sector showed an average growth rate of 9.32% between 2008 and 2013. This is the country’s highest growth rate if compared to other sectors such as manufacturing (0.12%), construction (6.33%), and farming (1.49%). In fact, the contribution of the mining-energy sector to the Colombian GDP jumped from 4.9% in 2001 to 10.24% in 2013. In addition, mining activity consumed 76.4% of the total of foreign direct investment in 2009, 67.3% in 2010, 56.1% in 2011, and 49.2% in 2012. This dynamic has also been reflected in Colombia’s overseas sales: mining exports have become established as the major exporter in the Colombian economy in 2011, 2012, and 2013, displacing the manufacturing industry.

As a consequence, several major players in this economic sector have commented on the peak of mining-energy and its diverse effects on the country’s economy, particularly, on the real exchange rate and the deindustrialization process (recent articles about this subject are Clavijo et al., 2012; Carranza and Moreno, 2013; Poncela, et al., 2016; and Sierra and Manrique, 2014).1 Between the time the first draft of this paper was completed in December 2014 and June 2015, oil prices had fallen by more than 40%, and real devaluation of the Colombian peso finished at around 15% over the same period. Suddenly, Colombia’s economic debate turned from the possible negative impact of the 2001-2008 oil price boom (symptoms of the so-called Dutch Disease) to the future fiscal effects of the downturn in oil prices and the effects of local currency devaluation. It is worth emphasizing that the share of oil within the mining-energy sector and overall industry was 72% and 47.4% in 2014, respectively.

The real exchange rate, as we noted previously, is one of the variables that can be most affected by booms and busts in oil prices, causing changes in the competitiveness of Colombian industry. In spite of the academic and public interest that the real exchange rate has attracted due to the strong appreciation that the country experienced in the first decade of 2000 and its possible negative effects on manufacturing, both theoretical and empirical works that relate the real exchange rate to industrial employment in the national context are scarce. Among the main macroeconomic variables, those related to employment are of greatest concern to the country’s economy. While economic activity strengthens and inflation is controlled, the labor market does not show altogether encouraging figures. According to data from CEPAL’s Annual Statistical Directory published in 2013, Colombia produced double-digit unemployment rates between 2006 and 2012, while in general, Latin America and the Caribbean enjoyed single-digit rates.

The purpose of this article is, therefore, to determine the effect of the real exchange rate on Colombia’s total industrial employment and on 59 of the country’s industrial sectors for the period 2000-2010. In this effort, panel data techniques are used, with the Annual Manufacturing Survey (AMS) of Colombia’s National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE) as a main source. Specifically, we use the generalized methods of moments (GMM) estimator of Arellano and Bond (1991) to control for endogeneity. At this point, it is important to note that during the period of analysis (2000-2010), Colombia had a flexible exchange rate. However, different exchange rate regimes had been in place historically: crawling pegs (1967-1991), crawling bands (1991-1999), and flexible exchange rate (1999 to date). We used data for 59 sectors from the Annual Manufacturing Survey, along with macroeconomic data, to conduct estimations using the Arellano and Bond (1991) generalized method of moments (GMM) estimator.

The document is organized in five parts. This introduction is followed by a review of the most relevant literature. The empirical model is specified in the third section. Results of the econometric model are shown in section four, and finally, we end with our conclusion.

2. Literature review

The appreciation of the U.S. dollar and the yen at the beginning of the 1980s led Branson and Love (1988) to explore the relationship between the exchange rate and manufacturing employment in the United States and Japan. The work of these researchers, as well that of Revenga (1992), set the starting point for a series of theoretical and empirical studies evaluating the impact of the real exchange rate on industrial employment.

Likewise, work carried out for advanced countries since the late 1980s and for emerging nations since the first decade of 2000 points out several channels by which the movements of the real exchange rate affect the labor market. Specifically, most of the theoretical models focus on three channels.

The first indicates that a depreciation of the real exchange rate reduces imports, which are relatively more expensive for domestic consumers and less expensive for foreign consumers. This, then, leads to an increase of the country’s net exports and, consequently, higher production and employment levels. On the contrary, an appreciation of the real exchange rate reduces the competitiveness of national companies in the international market, which reduces the level of net exports. As a result, production and employment levels drop.

Leung and Yuen (2007) from the Central Bank of Canada, have identified the first channel as "the production channel." Hua (2007) referred to it as the "export volume channel," and Frenkel and Ros (2006) have called it the "macroeconomic channel."

According to Revenga (1992) and Ekholm, et al., (2011), the second channel presented in economic literature refers to the greater or lesser degree of competition that domestically inclined producers face due to fluctuations in the real exchange rate. This channel shows that an appreciation of the real exchange rate drives nationally oriented producers to a loss in competitiveness against imports and, therefore, a drop in production and employment. For its part, a depreciation of the real exchange rate boosts production and the labor market, resulting in a loss in competitiveness for international goods in the domestic market.

Finally, the third channel, identified by the economy’s researchers as the channel of imported supplies, suggests that appreciation (depreciation) of the real exchange rate decreases (increases) production costs of the companies that depend on foreign supplies, leading to greater (lesser) profits and, therefore, to increases (declines) in production and employment (Campa and Goldberg, 2001; Demir, 2010).

Evidently, the effect of the real exchange rate on manufacturing employment is ambiguous. On the one hand, appreciation implies a decrease in employment for export-oriented industries and for those that compete with imports; on the other hand, appreciation is associated with growth in employment for the companies with imported supplies and capital assets for the production of their respective goods.

This said, the base regression of Nucci and Pozzolo (2010) confirmed that Italy’s industrial employment responds to the movements of the real exchange rate by means of the first and third channels. In regard to the former, an appreciation of 1.0% represents a decline in the manufacturing employment of between 1.2% and 1.8%, and in relation to the latter, an appreciation of 1.0% implies an increase of between 2.7% and 2.9%.

Campa and Goldberg (2001) carried out other related research for the United States. The authors found that appreciation in the exchange rate produces a slight drop in total industrial employment. In particular, an appreciation of 1.0% produces a decrease of 0.01% in industrial employment. With reference to the analysis by industry, appreciation contracts employment in 17 sectors and expands it in three. However, results are not statistically significant for most of the industries under consideration.

For the countries that make up the Group of Seven,2 Burgess and Knetter (1998) evaluated the relationship between the real exchange rate and manufacturing employment between 1972 and 1988. Their work concluded that an appreciation of the real exchange rate decreases industrial employment in the United Kingdom and Italy. The effect on Canada and the United States follows the same direction, but results are insignificant in statistical terms. Meanwhile, the estimations for Germany and Japan show that appreciation is associated with an increase of manufacturing employment; however, coefficients were not significant either.

Regarding Latin American studies on the subject, the relationship between the real exchange rate and industrial employment remains unclear. Galindo et al. (2007) as well as Vergara (2005) indicated a positive relationship between industrial employment and the depreciation of the real exchange rate, though it did not turn out to be statistically significant. On the other hand, Haltiwanger et al. (2004) provided empirical evidence on the positive impact of an appreciation of the local currency on manufacturing employment in the six Latin American countries considered.3

Other studies for developing economies that examine the relationship between employment and the real exchange rate are those of Sahin and Cengiz (2011) and Demir (2010), for the case of Turkey, and Hua (2007) and Yanhui and Wang (2006), for the case of China. Sahin and Cengiz (2007) employed panel unit root test and panel cointegration for the period between 2003 and 2009, finding cointegration among variables of the study. Demir (2010) used several empirical approaches, including GMM, to evaluate the relationship between both volatility and real exchange movements on employment growth during the period of 1983-2005. These studies together with Hua (2007) found that real appreciation of local currency may have affected employment creation negatively.

In the case of Colombia, few articles specifically relate the real exchange rate with employment performance. Vivas et al. (1998) estimated different specifications of the labor demand function for several economic sectors of Colombia for 1980-1996. Using vector error correction model (VEC), they found that, in the case of the manufacturing industry, there is a short-term positive relationship between employment and the real exchange rate. López and Misas (2006) suggested an explanation of the unemployment rate in Colombia with data that extends from the first trimester of 1984 to the third trimester of 2005. The researchers point out that, in the long-term, several factors determine unemployment, among them, the external sector (real exchange rate); however, this variable has a limited influence on the evolution of unemployment.

2.1 Econometric model and data

To assess the empirical relationship between the real exchange rate and Colombia’s manufacturing employment rate, we follow the empirical approach of Demir (2010). The model seeks the estimate of the two equations below:

In which i = 1,...,59; j = 1,...,23; t = 2000,...,2010 and Di = Ʃ159Di, lijt and VAijt represent the number of employees and value added of industry i in the department j for the year t, respectively; GDPjt-1 is the real gross domestic product of the department j; Wijt-1 is real salaries of sector i for year t-1.4 For its part, Rt expresses the real active interest rate in the year t. RERt represents the real effective exchange rate of Colombia for the year t, and Di is a dummy per industry. ut is the error term. Equation (1) evaluates the effect of the real exchange rate on overall employment, while equation (2) is set to estimate the effect of the real exchange rate on employment for each specific economic manufacturing sector.

In the right hand of the equation (1), the variables are included as follows. First, the number of employees in the period immediately beforehand controls the process of labor adjustment. Second, the real salary is given as the main labor cost; a negative relationship between the real salary and the number of employees that the manufacturing companies demand is expected. Third, the real GDP per department is included to capture the changes in the aggregate demand, which have an influence on labor allocation. Fourth, the industrial value added in the estimation captures changes in productivity and sector-specific shocks. Fifth, the real interest rate is included as an approximation of the cost of the capital. And finally, the real exchange rate is included for the purpose of the equations to be estimated. As documented, the effect of the real exchange rate on industrial employment is ambiguous. All the variables are log-differenced, as in Demir (2010), Leung and Yuen (2007), and Galindo, Izquierdo, and Montero (2007).

Considering, on one hand, the temporary and transversal data of the model, and on the other, that the explanatory variables correspond to the lagged dependent variable (lijt-1), the estimation is carried out through the generalized method of moments (GMM) of Arellano and Bond (1991). Since lijt-1 and ut in equation (1) are correlated, as well as lijt-1 and εt in equation (2), the Ordinary Least Squares estimation of this model would yield inconsistent estimates. GMM in differences allows the correction of the correlation between lijt-1 and the error term by using lags and differences in the model’s variables when employed as instrumental variables. Nevertheless, the method’s application demands that the instruments are not correlated with the error term; neither can second-order autocorrelation exist. To validate that the regressions follow the identified constraints, the Sargan Test and the Arellano-Bond Test are used for first- and second-order autocorrelation.

With regard to the data, the Annual Manufacturing Survey from DANE provides information about the number of employees, salaries, and the production per industry for each of the 59 industries in 23 departments of Colombia for the period 2000-2010. The industries are grouped together according to the International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities, revision 3.1, adopted by DANE for Colombia. Likewise, we take the real Annual GDP per department from DANE. The real effective exchange rate is obtained from the International Monetary Fund and the active interest rate from the Banco de la República. Salaries and the interest rate were deflated with the Producer Price Index published by DANE. In this context, all the regression variables are expressed in real terms.

At this point, we believe it is important to define the real exchange rate, as it is a relevant variable in our study. For this study, we use the real effective exchange rate of the IMF, which takes into account an average of the bilateral exchange rates between Colombia and each of its trading partners, weighted by the respective trade shares. The IMF calculates RER as a geometric weighted average of bilateral real exchange rates between the home country and its trade partners. Specifically, the RER index of country i (Colombia) is calculated by:

Where j refers to Colombia trade partners, Pi and Pj are Consumer Price Indexes of Colombia and trade partners, respectively; Wij represents a set of weights for Colombia on trade partner countries; and Ri and Rj are bilateral nominal exchange rates of country i and j against the U.S. dollar (measured in U.S. dollar per local currency). Under this definition, a real appreciation of the peso implies that the prices of local goods are more expensive than those from the rest of the world. Note that under this definition, an increase in RER amounts to an appreciation of the Colombian peso and a decrease in RER indicates a real depreciation.

3. Empirical Results

Table 1 shows the estimation for equation (1). According to the Sargan and Arellano-Bond tests, the estimations are correctly identified, and there is second-order but no first-order autocorrelation, as mentioned in the note to Table 1.


Table 1. Estimation results for equation (1)
Effects of the real exchange rate on industrial employment in Colombia


Column 1 of the table notes that the lag in employment, lijt-1, the lag in the real GDP per departments, PIBjt-1, and the value added per sector, VAijt, present a positive effect on manufacturing employment. Meanwhile, the real salary shows a negative sign. These relationships are statistically significant and in accordance with signs of previous studies. In keeping with the analysis in column 1 and focusing on the effect of the real exchange rate on industrial employment, an appreciation of the real exchange rate that produces a decline in Colombia’s manufacturing employment becomes evident. Specifically, an appreciation of 1% leads to a decrease of industrial employment of 0.39% on average.5

Considering the above, the estimation of column 2 includes the growth of total sales per industry, STj_1, as a control to the demand fluctuations.6 As in the previous estimations, the real exchange rate negatively affects the growth of manufacturing employment. In fact, an appreciation of 1.0% represents a decrease of industrial employment of 0.46%. The estimation of column 3 includes the growth of the real interest rate as a measure of capital costs. The results show a positive relationship between the real interest rate and the growth of employment, which means that an increase in the real interest rate generates an increase in labor as a substitute of capital. The coefficient of RERt in the estimation results of column 3 is the same as the previous estimation.

As a robustness check, in column 4 we evaluate the effect of the nominal exchange rate (U.S. dollars per Colombian peso), NERt, in manufacturing employment. The nominal exchange rate is obtained from the Central Bank of Colombia. We found that an increase in NERt (a nominal appreciation of the Colombian peso) significantly affects manufacturing employment. The estimated manufacturing employment elasticity is -0.51. A 1% nominal appreciation of the Colombian peso results in a 0.51% drop in manufacturing employment.

The different specifications, therefore, show that the movements of the real exchange rate have significant effects on the number of employees in Colombia’s industrial sector, in particular an appreciation (depreciation) of the real exchange rate contracts (expands) total manufacturing employment. According to the estimation, an appreciation of 1.0% reduces industrial employment between 0.40% and 0.47%. Our results are in line with Galindo, Izquierdo, and Montero (2007) for manufacturing employment in Latin America, Vergara (2005) for Chile’s industrial employment, and Sahin and Cengiz (2011) for Turkey.

Estimation results for equation (2), which take into account employment per each industry sector, are presented in Table 2. In column 1 of Table 2, important quantities of positive and negative coefficients are presented. In fact, an appreciation of the real exchange rate is related to employment increases in 26 manufacturing sectors and employment reductions in 33. However, only 25 of the 59 industries present statistically significant coefficients.


Table 2. Estimation of equation 2.
Colombia. Effects of the real exchange rate on industrial employment per sectors


With reference to the statistically significant relationships, a real appreciation of the Colombian peso produces, on one hand, a decline in employment in 18 industries: processing of milled products; sugar mills and refineries; tobacco products; preparation and spinning of textile fibers; weaving of textile products; manufacture of apparel; manufacture of other wooden products; printing; printing services; manufacture of basic chemical substances; manufacture of other metal products; manufacture of appliances of distribution and control of electrical energy; manufacture of wire and insulated cables; manufacture of electric lamps; manufacture of optical instruments; construction and repair of ships; aircraft manufacture; and manufacturing industries n.e.c.7

It is important to mention that the sum of the shares of these 18 industries represented on average 31.1% of total manufacturing employment between 2000 and 2010, according to EMA data. The contributions of sectors in total employment are: the manufacture of apparel (12.7%); the manufacturing industries (6.6%); processing of milled products (2.4%); and the weaving of textile products (2.3%). The remaining 14 contribute less than 2.0% (see Appendix).

On the other hand, an appreciation of the real exchange rate encourages an increase of employment in seven industries, namely: footwear manufacture; manufacture of wooden planks and boards; manufacture of wooden containers; manufacture of engines, generators, and transformers; manufacture of electronic tubes and valves; manufacture of radio, television receivers, equipment for recording sound and image reproduction; and manufacture of vehicles and their engines.

It is worth emphasizing that the seven industries mentioned above only make up 2.9% on average of the total manufacturing employment for the decade under study. With the exception of footwear manufacture, which contributes 1.9%, each of these sectors contributes less than 1.0%: manufacture of vehicles and their engines, 0.6%; manufacture of tubes and electronic valves, 0.2%; manufacture of wooden containers, 0.07%; manufacture of radio, television receivers, 0.06%; manufacture of wooden planks and boards, 0.05%; and manufacture of engines, generators, and transformers, 0.01%.

Column 2 includes total sales, to control the fluctuations of the demand per industry, and column 3 includes the real interest rate, to account for capital costs. We found similar results in both of the types of regressions: 18 industries show negative statistically significant coefficients (an appreciation of the Colombian peso generates a reduction in manufacturing employment in those sectors), while seven industries show positive statistically significant coefficients (for those sectors, an appreciation of the Colombian peso generates a positive impact on manufacturing employment).

As a robustness check, we included the estimation results taking into account the nominal exchange rate to evaluate its effect on each of the manufacturing sectors (see column 4 in Table 2). We assume that in the short term, the real exchange rate should be driven more by changes in the nominal exchange rate rather than movements in relative prices. Our results using the nominal exchange rate instead of the real exchange rate are consistent with previous estimates. In general, 16 manufacturing sectors are negatively affected and six positively affected by either the real exchange rate or the nominal exchange rate in the four types of regressions we estimated (columns 1-4).

4. Conclusions

The behavior of the real exchange rate has assumed a prominent role in recent economic research and discussions in Colombia due to the strong appreciation that the country experienced in 2003. Nonetheless, theoretical and empirical works examining the relationship between the real exchange rate and the labor market in the country are relatively scarce.

With the idea of contributing empirical evidence to Colombia, the purpose of this article is to determine the effect of the real exchange rate on the country’s industrial employment and on 59 of its industrial sectors for the period 2000-2010. To this end, the generalized method of moments of Arellano and Bond (1991) is employed, and as a main source, data from the Annual Manufacturing Survey of the National Administrative Department of Statistics is used.

A review of economic literature reveals that the effect of the real exchange rate on manufacturing employment is ambiguous. On one hand, appreciation represents a decrease in employment for industries with export business and for those that compete with imports, and on the other hand, it is associated with a growth in employment for industries with imported supplies and capital assets to produce their respective goods.

For Colombia, results indicate that the movements of the real exchange rate have a significant effect on the number of employees in the industrial sector. Particularly, a real appreciation of the Colombian peso (depreciation) contracts (expands) total manufacturing employment. Based on the estimation, an appreciation of 1.0% reduces industrial employment between 0.40% and 0.47%.

In relation to estimation by sectors, the base regression stresses that an appreciation is connected to increases in employment in 26 manufacturing sectors and to decreases in 33. Nevertheless, only 25 of the 59 industries of study present coefficients that are statistically different from 0: seven positive and 18 negative. Therefore, our results confirm that appreciation of the local currency affects Colombian industries in different ways. It is worth emphasizing that most of the sectors did not prove to be statistically significant.

Taking into consideration the effect of the real exchange rate on manufacturing employment found in this article, at first glance, it seems coherent that several sectors of the economy are making a call to both the monetary authorities and the national government to introduce policies that will lead to the depreciation of the local currency. However, based on the results found per industry, economic policies focused on cushioning the impact of appreciation should not be addressed to the largest part of the Colombian economy. On the contrary, it is advisable that policy measurements be oriented to industries, since they respond differently to exchange rate appreciation.

Given that much of the manufacturing employment within sectors is not significantly impacted by changes in the real exchange rate, further research could analyze whether or not the effect of the real exchange rate depends on the market power in the manufacturing sectors (i.e., an industry with monopoly market power may transmit the effect of changes in the real exchange to local prices, with little effect on employment). In addition, further research could evaluate the long-term effect of movements in the real exchange rate on overall employment.


1 Most of the papers related to Colombia focused on the study of the phenomenon known in economic literature as the "Dutch Disease." In 1977, The Economist used the term "Dutch Disease" to describe the deindustrialization process perceived in the Netherlands after having experienced real appreciation as the result of the discovery of natural gas deposits in the 1960s.

2 The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Canada, France, and Italy.

3 Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Uruguay.

4 Giving the possible endogenity between the real gross domestic product and the value added per industry, we use one period lag values.

5 Note that under the IMF definition of the real effective exchange rate, an increase of the RER can be interpreted as real appreciation and a decline of the RER as depreciation.

6 Total sales were obtained from the Annual Manufacturing Survey and were deflated with the Manufacturing Producer Price Index.

7 For practical matters, the names of the industries are simplified.



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Table A1. Share in industrial employment, 2000-2010


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