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The Labor Productivity Puzzle

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  • Edward Prescott

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)

  • Ellen McGrattan

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)

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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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2012 Meeting Papers with number 644.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed012:644

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  1. Ohanian, Lee E. & Raffo, Andrea, 2012. "Aggregate hours worked in OECD countries: New measurement and implications for business cycles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 40-56.
  2. Jordi Galí & Thijs van Rens, 2008. "The vanishing procyclicality of labor productivity," Economics Working Papers 1230, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jul 2010.
  3. Casey B. Mulligan, 2011. "Rising Labor Productivity during the 2008-9 Recession," NBER Working Papers 17584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  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 Terry, 2013. "Really Uncertain Business Cycles," CEP Discussion Papers dp1195, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  7. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Charles R. Hulten, 2010. "Decoding Microsoft: Intangible Capital as a Source of Company Growth," NBER Working Papers 15799, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Carol Corrado & John Haltiwanger & Dan Sichel, 2005. "Measuring Capital in the New Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number corr05-1.
  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. 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.
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