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Labor Productivity: Structural Change and Cyclical Dynamics

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

Abstract

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 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 the 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 long-run upsizers. When we control for the direction of a cyclical shock, we find that the fall in productivity from an adverse magnitude than 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 or procyclical productivity: changing factor utilization over the cycle.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Neil Baily & Eric J. Bartelsman & John Haltiwanger, 1998. "Labor Productivity: Structural Change and Cyclical Dynamics," Working Papers 98-7, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Handle: RePEc:cen:wpaper:98-7
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cyclical Productivity;

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity

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