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Is the information technology revolution over?

  • David M. Byrne
  • Stephen D. Oliner
  • Daniel E. Sichel

Given the slowdown in labor productivity growth in the mid-2000s, some have argued that the boost to labor productivity from IT may have run its course. This paper contributes three types of evidence to this debate. First, we show that since 2004, IT has continued to make a significant contribution to labor productivity growth in the United States, though it is no longer providing the boost it did during the productivity resurgence from 1995 to 2004. Second, we present evidence that semiconductor technology, a key ingredient of the IT revolution, has continued to advance at a rapid pace and that the BLS price index for microprocesssors may have substantially understated the rate of decline in prices in recent years. Finally, we develop projections of growth in trend labor productivity in the nonfarm business sector. The baseline projection of about 1¾ percent a year is better than recent history but is still below the long-run average of 2¼ percent. However, we see a reasonable prospect--particularly given the ongoing advance in semiconductors--that the pace of labor productivity growth could rise back up to or exceed the long-run average. While the evidence is far from conclusive, we judge that "No, the IT revolution is not over."

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2013-36.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2013-36
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  1. Pillai, Unni, 2011. "A model of technological progress in the microprocessor industry," MPRA Paper 31881, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Martin Neil Baily & James Manyika & Shalabh Gupta, 2013. "U.S. Productivity Growth: An Optimistic Perspective," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 25, pages 3-12, Spring.
  3. Haskel, J & Corrado, C & Jona-Lasinio, C & Iommi, M, 2012. "Intangible capital and growth in advanced economies: measurement methods and comparative results," Working Papers 9913, Imperial College, London, Imperial College Business School.
  4. Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 2000. "The resurgence of growth in the late 1990s: is information technology the story?," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  5. Susanto Basu & John G. Fernald & Matthew D. Shapiro, 2001. "Productivity Growth in the 1990s: Technology, Utilization, or Adjustment?," NBER Working Papers 8359, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Robert J. Gordon, 2012. "Is U.S. Economic Growth Over? Faltering Innovation Confronts the Six Headwinds," NBER Working Papers 18315, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Dale W. Jorgenson, 2001. "Information Technology and the U.S. Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 1-32, March.
  8. Robert C. Feenstra & Benjamin R. Mandel & Marshall B. Reinsdorf & Matthew J. Slaughter, 2013. "Effects of Terms of Trade Gains and Tariff Changes on the Measurement of US Productivity Growth," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 59-93, February.
  9. Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel. & Kevin J. Stiroh, 2007. "Explaining a productive decade," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2007-63, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  10. Adam Copeland, 2013. "Seasonality, consumer heterogeneity and price indexes: the case of prepackaged software," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 39(1), pages 47-59, February.
  11. 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, 09.
  12. Ana Aizcorbe & Stephen D Oliner & Daniel E Sichel, 2008. "Shifting Trends in Semiconductor Prices and the Pace of Technological Progress," Business Economics, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 43(3), pages 23-39, July.
  13. Robert J. Gordon, 2010. "Revisiting U. S. Productivity Growth over the Past Century with a View of the Future," NBER Working Papers 15834, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. John W. Kendrick, 1961. "Productivity Trends in the United States," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kend61-1, October.
  15. Robert J. Gordon, 2013. "U.S. Productivity Growth: The Slowdown Has Returned After a Temporary Revival," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 25, pages 13-19, Spring.
  16. P. D. Chwelos & E. R. Berndt & I. M. Cockburn, 2008. "Faster, smaller, cheaper: an hedonic price analysis of PDAs," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(22), pages 2839-2856.
  17. Stephen D. Oliner & Daniel E. Sichel, 1994. "Computers and Output Growth Revisited: How Big Is the Puzzle?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 273-334.
  18. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 8973.
  19. Gordon, Robert J, 2010. "Revisiting U. S. productivity Growth over the Past Century with a View of the Future," CEPR Discussion Papers 7991, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  20. David Wasshausen & Brent R. Moulton, 2006. "The Role of Hedonic Methods in Measuring Real GDP in the United States," BEA Papers 0067, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
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