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Labor Productivity: Structural Change And Cyclical Dynamics

  • Martin Neil Baily
  • Eric J. Bartelsman
  • John Haltiwanger

A longstanding issue in empirical economics is the behavior of average labor productivity over the business cycle. This paper provides new insights into the cyclicality of aggregate labor productivity by examining the cyclical behavior of productivity at the plant level as well as the role of reallocation across plants over the cycle. We find that plant-level productivity is even more procyclical than aggregate productivity, because short-run reallocation yields a countercyclical contribution to labor productivity. At the plant level, we find that cyclicality of productivity varies systematically with long-run employment growth. Over the course of the cycle, plants that are long-run downsizers exhibit significantly greater procyclicality of productivity than do long-run upsizers. When we control for the direction of a cyclical shock, we find that the fall in productivity from an adverse cyclical shock for long-run downsizers is significantly larger in magnitude than is the fall in productivity from an equivalent adverse cyclical shock for long-run upsizers. We argue that these findings raise questions about one of the most popular explanations of procyclical productivity: changing factor utilization over the cycle. © 2001 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Review of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 83 (2001)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
Pages: 420-433

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:83:y:2001:i:3:p:420-433
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  1. Steven J. Davis & John C. Haltiwanger & Scott Schuh, 1998. "Job Creation and Destruction," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262540932, June.
  2. Ben S. Bernanke & Martin L. Parkinson, 1990. "Procyclical Labor Productivity and Competing Theories of the Business Cycle: Some Evidence from Interwar U.S. Manufacturing Industries," NBER Working Papers 3503, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Craig Burnside & Martin Eichenbaum & Sergio Rebelo, 1990. "Labor Hoarding and the Business Cycle," NBER Working Papers 3556, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Aizcorbe, Ana M, 1992. "Procyclical Labour Productivity, Increasing Returns to Labour and Labour Hoarding in Car Assembly Plant Employment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 102(413), pages 860-73, July.
  9. Bils, Mark, 1987. "The Cyclical Behavior of Marginal Cost and Price," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 838-55, December.
  10. Robert E. Hall, 1986. "The Relation Between Price and Marginal Cost in U.S. Industry," NBER Working Papers 1785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M.R.A. Engel & John Haltiwanger, 1995. "Aggregate Employment Dynamics: Building From Microeconomic Evidence," NBER Working Papers 5042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Saint-Paul, Gilles, 1993. "Productivity growth and the structure of the business cycle," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 861-883, May.
  13. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M.R.A. Engel, 1992. "Microeconomic Adjustment Hazards and Aggregate Dynamics," NBER Working Papers 4090, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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