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The Productivity Slowdown Puzzle. Technological and Non-technological Shocks in the Labor Market

  • Enrico Saltari
  • Giuseppe Travaglini

In this paper we address the question of whether labor supply shifts are the only source of the productivity slowdown that occurred across European countries in the last 15 years. This explanation implies that labor demand shifts are irrelevant. Using a simple dynamic model of the labor market, we show that the poor economic performance of the European countries can only be accounted for by a combination of two shocks: an adverse technological shock to the labor demand and a positive non-technological shock to the labor supply resulting from changes in institutions. We use a structural VAR model to estimate the contribution of these two shocks to the dynamics of employment and productivity. Our main conclusion is that technological shocks explain the decrease of the growth rate of productivity but not the increase in employment. The non-technological shocks, on the other hand, can capture the increase of employment but not the slowdown of labor productivity. Thus, both shocks are necessary to provide a complete picture of the employment-productivity trade off in Europe during the last 15 years.

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Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal International Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 23 (2009)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 483-509

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Handle: RePEc:taf:intecj:v:23:y:2009:i:4:p:483-509
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  1. Blanchard, Olivier Jean & Quah, Danny, 1989. "The Dynamic Effects of Aggregate Demand and Supply Disturbances," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 655-73, September.
  2. Stephen Nickell, 2003. "Labour Market Institutions and Unemployment in OECD Countries," CESifo DICE Report, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 1(2), pages 13-26, October.
  3. Marcello M. Estevão, 2004. "Why is Productivity Growth in the Euro Area so Sluggish?," IMF Working Papers 04/200, International Monetary Fund.
  4. Olivier Blanchard & Justin Wolfers, 1999. "The Role of Shocks and Institutions in the Rise of European Unemployment: The Aggregate Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7282, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 2005. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199279173, March.
  6. Michèle Belot & Jan C. van Ours, 2004. "Does the recent success of some OECD countries in lowering their unemployment rates lie in the clever design of their labor market reforms?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(4), pages 621-642, October.
  7. repec:dgr:kubcen:200040 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Nickell, S. & Layard, R., 1997. "Labour Market Institutions and Economic Performance," Papers 23, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  9. Ricardo J. Caballero & Mohamad L. Hammour, 1998. "The Macroeconomics of Specificity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(4), pages 724-767, August.
  10. Oliver J. Blanchard, 1997. "The Medium Run," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(2), pages 89-158.
  11. Stephen Nickell & Luca Nunziata & Wolfgang Ochel, 2005. "Unemployment in the OECD Since the 1960s. What Do We Know?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(500), pages 1-27, 01.
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