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The UK Productivity and Jobs Puzzle: Does the Answer Lie in Labour Market Flexibility?

GDP per worker fell for the five years after 2008 which is unprecedented in post war UK history. In this paper we argue that "capital shallowing" (i.e. the fall in the capital-labour ratio) could be the main reason for this. This is likely to have occurred due to changes in factor prices: a large fall in real wages and increases in the cost of capital. In previous recessions real wages did not fall, but reforms to union strength and welfare have made wages more sensitive to negative demand shocks. This wage flexibility is desirable as it reduces the risks of long-term unemployment building up. After accounting for changes in capital TFP is more similar to earlier recessions and likely to be related to under-utilised resources and misallocation. The fall in labour productivity is therefore likely to reverse if demand improves - e.g. through stronger monetary or fiscal policy stimulus.

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File URL: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/special/cepsp31.pdf
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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Special Papers with number 31.

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Date of creation: Jun 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepsps:31
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEPSP

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  1. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Peter Klenow, 2009. "Misallocation and Manufacturing TFP in China and India," Working Papers 09-04, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. Nicholas Bloom & Max Floetotto & Nir Jaimovich & Itay Saporta-Eksten & Stephen Terry, 2013. "Really Uncertain Business Cycles," CEP Discussion Papers dp1195, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  3. Nicholas Bloom, 2009. "The Impact of Uncertainty Shocks," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 77(3), pages 623-685, 05.
  4. Bartelsman, Eric & Haltiwanger, John C. & Scarpetta, Stefano, 2009. "Cross-Country Differences in Productivity: The Role of Allocation and Selection," IZA Discussion Papers 4578, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Haskel, J & Goodridge, P & Wallis, G, 2013. "Can intangible investment explain the UK productivity puzzle?," Working Papers 11140, Imperial College, London, Imperial College Business School.
  6. Paul Gregg & Stephen Machin & Mariña Fernández‐Salgado, 2014. "Real Wages and Unemployment in the Big Squeeze," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 0(576), pages 408-432, 05.
  7. Crafts, Nicholas, 2012. "British relative economic decline revisited: The role of competition," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 17-29.
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