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The 1990s acceleration in labor productivity: causes and measurement

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  • Richard G. Anderson
  • Kevin L. Kliesen

Abstract

The acceleration of labor productivity growth that began during the mid-1990s is the defining economic event of the past decade. A consensus has arisen among economists that the acceleration was caused by technological innovations that decreased the quality-adjusted prices of semiconductors and related information and communications technology (ICT) products, including digital computers. In sharp contrast to the previous 20 years, services-producing sectors-heavy users of ICT products-led the productivity increase, besting even a robust manufacturing sector. In this article, the authors survey the performance of the services-producing and goods-producing sectors and examine revisions to aggregate labor productivity data of the type commonly discussed by policymakers. The revisions, at times, were large enough to reverse preliminary conclusions regarding productivity growth slowdowns and accelerations. The unanticipated acceleration in the services sector and the large size of revisions to aggregate data combine to shed light on why economists were slow to recognize the productivity acceleration.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard G. Anderson & Kevin L. Kliesen, 2006. "The 1990s acceleration in labor productivity: causes and measurement," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 181-202.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlrv:y:2006:i:may:p:181-202:n:v.88no.3
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    Cited by:

    1. Jan P. A. M. Jacobs & Simon van Norden, 2010. "Lessons from the latest data on U.S. productivity," Working Papers 11-1, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    2. Jacobs, Jan P.A.M. & van Norden, Simon, 2016. "Why are initial estimates of productivity growth so unreliable?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 47(PB), pages 200-213.
    3. Elliott, Graham & Müller, Ulrich K., 2014. "Pre and post break parameter inference," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 180(2), pages 141-157.

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    Keywords

    Labor productivity;

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