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Lagging Productivity Growth in the Service Sector: Mismeasurement, Mismanagement or Misinformation?

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  • Dinah Maclean
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    Abstract

    While the service sector has been growing rapidly as a share of total output, aggregate productivity growth has generally lagged behind that of the goods sector. In this report, the author assesses a range of explanations for lagging service sector productivity growth. Measurement problems appear to be greater in services than in goods, and a detailed analysis of output measurement in the three service industries experiencing the lowest productivity growth suggests that underestimation is likely significant in finance, insurance and real estate, in community, business and personal services, and in trade. A lower level of competition in services compared with goods may also have affected productivity growth, though this impact is very hard to quantify. Explanations based on the service sector's relatively greater investment in new technology, however, are found to account at best for lagging productivity growth only in the last decade. Finally, the hypothesis that service industries are incapable of high productivity growth because of their labour-intensive nature is shown to be inapplicable to much of the service sector. The report concludes by considering which service industries are showing the greatest growth. It is found that much of the increased service-sector output has been in areas that have shown relatively strong productivity growth, or where problems of measurement are particularly severe. Moreover, there is considerable potential for greater productivity growth in areas that may have shown slower productivity increases in the past, because of such factors as technological change and ongoing adjustments to past deregulation.

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    File URL: http://www.bankofcanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/wp97-6.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Bank of Canada in its series Working Papers with number 97-6.

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    Length: 46 pages
    Date of creation: 1997
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:bca:bocawp:97-6

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    Related research

    Keywords: Productivity; Recent economic and financial developments;

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    References

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    1. Francois, Joseph & Reinert, Kenneth A, 1995. "The Role of Services in the Structure of Production and Trade: Stylized Facts from a Cross-Country Analysis," CEPR Discussion Papers 1228, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Zvi Griliches, 1998. "Productivity, R&D, and the Data Constraint," NBER Chapters, in: R&D and Productivity: The Econometric Evidence, pages 347-374 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Baumol, William J, 1972. "Macroeconomics of Unbalanced Growth: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(1), pages 150, March.
    4. Zvi Griliches, 1992. "Output Measurement in the Service Sectors," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gril92-1, October.
    5. Durand, Rene, 1994. "An Alternative to Double Deflation for Measuring Real Industry Value-Added," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 40(3), pages 303-16, September.
    6. David, P.A., 1989. "Computer And Dynamo: The Modern Productivity Paradox In A Not-Too Distant Mirror," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 339, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    7. Martin Neil Baily & Robert J. Gordon, 1988. "The Productivity Slowdown, Measurement Issues, and the Explosion of Computer Power," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(2), pages 347-432.
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