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The Labor Productivity Puzzle

In: Government Policies and the Delayed Economic Recovery

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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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Suggested Citation

  • Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2012. "The Labor Productivity Puzzle," Book Chapters,in: Lee E. Ohanian & John B. Taylor & Ian J. Wright (ed.), Government Policies and the Delayed Economic Recovery, chapter 6 Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
  • Handle: RePEc:hoo:bookch:6-6
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Carol A. Corrado & Charles R. Hulten & Daniel E. Sichel, 2006. "Intangible Capital and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 11948, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. 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, September.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Carol Corrado & John Haltiwanger & Dan Sichel, 2005. "Measuring Capital in the New Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number corr05-1.
    7. Corrado, Carol & Haltiwanger, John & Sichel, Daniel (ed.), 2005. "Measuring Capital in the New Economy," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 0, number 9780226116129.
    8. Casey B. Mulligan, 2011. "Rising Labor Productivity during the 2008-9 Recession," NBER Working Papers 17584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Charles R. Hulten, 2010. "Decoding Microsoft: Intangible Capital as a Source of Company Growth," NBER Working Papers 15799, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. 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.
    11. Eric Sims & Michael Jason Pries, 2011. "Reallocation and the Changing Nature of Economic Fluctuations," 2011 Meeting Papers 1258, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    12. Van Trinh, Le Thi & Gibson, John & Oxley, Les, 2005. "Measuring the stock of human capital in New Zealand," Mathematics and Computers in Simulation (MATCOM), Elsevier, vol. 68(5), pages 484-497.
    13. David Berger, 2012. "Countercyclical Restructuring and Jobless Recoveries," 2012 Meeting Papers 1179, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kateryna Bornukova, 2015. "Accounting for Labor Productivity Puzzle," BEROC Working Paper Series 26, Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Center (BEROC).
    2. Taylor, John B., 2016. "Slow economic growth as a phase in a policy performance cycle," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 649-655.
    3. Michael C. Burda & Daniel S. Hamermesh & Jay Stewart, 2013. "Cyclical Variation in Labor Hours and Productivity Using the ATUS," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 99-104, May.

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