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The labor productivity puzzle

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  • Ellen R. McGrattan
  • Edward C. Prescott

Abstract

Prior to the mid-1980s, labor productivity growth was a useful barometer of the U.S. economy’s performance: it was low during economic recessions and high during expansions. Since then, labor productivity has become significantly less procyclical. In the recent recession of 2008–2009, labor productivity actually rose as GDP plummeted. These facts have motivated the development of new business cycle theories because the conventional view is that they are inconsistent with existing business cycle theory. In this paper, we analyze recent events with existing theory and find that the labor productivity puzzle is much less of a puzzle than previously thought. In light of these findings, we argue that policy agendas arising from new untested theories should be disregarded.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Working Papers with number 694.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmwp:694

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  1. Carol Corrado & John Haltiwanger & Daniel Sichel, 2005. "Introduction to "Measuring Capital in the New Economy"," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Capital in the New Economy, pages 1-10 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Jordi Galí & Thijs van Rens, 2010. "The Vanishing Procyclicality of Labor Productivity," Kiel Working Papers 1641, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.
  3. Lee E. Ohanian & Andrea Raffo, 2011. "Aggregate Hours Worked in OECD Countries: New Measurement and Implications for Business Cycles," NBER Working Papers 17420, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Charles R. Hulten, 2010. "Decoding Microsoft: Intangible Capital as a Source of Company Growth," NBER Working Papers 15799, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Eric Sims & Michael Jason Pries, 2011. "Reallocation and the Changing Nature of Economic Fluctuations," 2011 Meeting Papers 1258, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  6. Nicholas Bloom & Max Floetotto & Nir Jaimovich & Itay Saporta-Eksten & Stephen J. Terry, 2012. "Really Uncertain Business Cycles," NBER Working Papers 18245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Carol Corrado & John Haltiwanger & Dan Sichel, 2005. "Measuring Capital in the New Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number corr05-1, May.
  8. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  9. David Berger, 2012. "Countercyclical Restructuring and Jobless Recoveries," 2012 Meeting Papers 1179, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. Carol Corrado & Charles Hulten & Daniel Sichel, 2009. "Intangible Capital And U.S. Economic Growth," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 55(3), pages 661-685, 09.
  11. Casey B. Mulligan, 2011. "Rising Labor Productivity during the 2008-9 Recession," NBER Working Papers 17584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Lee E. Ohanian, 2010. "The Economic Crisis from a Neoclassical Perspective," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 45-66, Fall.
  13. Anton Braun, R., 1994. "Tax disturbances and real economic activity in the postwar United States," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 441-462, June.
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