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Using the Survey of Plant Capacity to Measure Capital Utilization

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  • Yuriy Gorodnichenko
  • Matthew Shapiro

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Matthew Shapiro, 2011. "Using the Survey of Plant Capacity to Measure Capital Utilization," Working Papers 11-19, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:11-19
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    File URL: https://www2.census.gov/ces/wp/2011/CES-WP-11-19.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2011
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Susanto Basu, 1996. "Procyclical Productivity: Increasing Returns or Cyclical Utilization?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(3), pages 719-751.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Carol Corrado & Joe Mattey, 1997. "Capacity Utilization," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 151-167, Winter.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Betancourt,Roger R. & Clague,Christopher K., 2008. "Capital Utilization," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521070287.
    10. 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.
    11. Ron S Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2002. "The Longitudinal Business Database," Working Papers 02-17, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cette Gilbert & Lecat Rémy & Ahmed Jiddou Ahmed Ould, 2016. "How do firms adjust production factors to the cycle?," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 16(2), pages 361-394, June.
    2. Mark Bils & Peter J. Klenow & Benjamin A. Malin, 2013. "Testing for Keynesian Labor Demand," NBER Macroeconomics Annual, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 311-349.
    3. Pablo Ottonello, 2015. "Capital Unemployment, Financial Shocks, and Investment Slumps," 2015 Meeting Papers 1153, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. John G. Fernald & J. Christina Wang, 2016. "Why Has the Cyclicality of Productivity Changed? What Does It Mean?," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 8(1), pages 465-496, October.
    5. Yongsung Chang & Sun-Bin Kim & Mark Bils, 2013. "How Sticky Wages in Existing Jobs can affect Hiring," 2013 Meeting Papers 1162, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    6. Villa Stefania, 2012. "Capital Utilization and the Amplification Mechanism," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 12(1), pages 1-22, September.

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