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Using the Survey of Plant Capacity to Measure Capital Utilization

  • Yuriy Gorodnichenko
  • Matthew Shapiro

Most capital in the United States is idle much of the time. By some measures, the average workweek of capital in U.S. manufacturing is as low as 55 hours per 168 hour week. The level and variability of capital utilization has important implications for understanding both the level of production and its cyclical fluctuations. This paper investigates a number of issues relating to aggregation of capital utilization measures from the Survey of Plant Capacity and makes recommendations on expanding and improving the published statistics deriving from the Survey of Plant Capacity. The paper documents a number of facts about properties of capital utilization. First, after growing for decades, capital utilization started to fall in mid 1990s. Second, capital utilization is a useful predictor of changes in capacity utilization and other factors of production. Third, adjustment of productivity measures for variable capital utilization improves statistical and economic properties of these measures. Fourth, the paper constructs weights to aggregate firm level capital utilization rates to industry and economy level, which is the major enhancement to available data.

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File URL: ftp://ftp2.census.gov/ces/wp/2011/CES-WP-11-19.pdf
File Function: First version, 2011
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Paper provided by Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau in its series Working Papers with number 11-19.

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Length: 53 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:11-19
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  1. Craig Burnside & Martin Eichenbaum & Sergio Rebelo, 1995. "Capital Utilization and Returns to Scale," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1995, Volume 10, pages 67-124 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Miles S. Kimball & John G. Fernald & Susanto Basu, 2006. "Are Technology Improvements Contractionary?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1418-1448, December.
  3. Ron S Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2002. "The Longitudinal Business Database," Working Papers 02-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  4. Robert H Mcguckin & George A Pascoe, 1988. "The Longitudinal Research Database (LRD): Status And Research Possibilities," Working Papers 88-2, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  5. Matthew D. Shapiro, 1989. "Assessing the Federal Reserve's Measures of Capacity and Utilization," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 20(1), pages 181-242.
  6. Foss, Murray F, 1981. "Long-Run Changes in the Workweek of Fixed Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 58-63, May.
  7. J. Beaulieu & Joe Mattey, 1998. "The Workweek of Capital and Capital Utilization in Manufacturing," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 199-223, October.
  8. Basu, Susanto, 1996. "Procyclical Productivity: Increasing Returns or Cyclical Utilization?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(3), pages 719-51, August.
  9. Carol Corrado & Joe Mattey, 1997. "Capacity Utilization," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 151-167, Winter.
  10. Matthew D. Shapiro, 1996. "Macroeconomic Implications of Variation in the Workweek of Capital," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(2), pages 79-134.
  11. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521070287 is not listed on IDEAS
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