We explore the economic welfare effects of direct and indirect government-induced changes in employment under varying market conditions. We begin with a discussion of those policy-induced employment changes that seamlessly reshuffle workers among jobs in an efficient (i.e., full-employment, full-information) economy; generally such changes create few, if any, net changes in economic welfare not captured in changes in wage bills. We then turn to the effects of policy-induced employment changes in economies with two market distortions: (1) inflexible wages set by law or custom that result in involuntary unemployment during periods of deficient aggregate demand, and (2) illiquidity resulting from imperfect capital markets that prevent people from borrowing against future earnings. Induced employment changes in these circumstances impose real net social costs or generate real net social benefits beyond changes in the wage bill. We also assess the likely magnitude of the social opportunity cost of labor in the case of involuntary unemployment and imperfect liquidity, and address how the welfare effects of such employment changes should be valued. Based on currently available empirical research, we develop estimates of the opportunity costs of hiring or releasing an employee during periods of high unemployment with and without other market distortions. In contrast to conventional benefit-cost analysis practice, which treats releasing workers as having a negative opportunity cost, we estimate an opportunity cost for firing that is positive and equal to about 73% of pre-firing compensation, primarily because of the “scarring effect” of unemployment. Also in contrast to conventional practice, we estimate an opportunity cost for hiring an unemployed worker that is less than the worker’s opportunity cost of time.