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Productivity or Employment: Is It a Choice?

  • Andrea De Michelis
  • Marcello M. Estevão
  • Beth Anne Wilson

Traditionally, shocks to total factor productivity (TFP) are considered exogenous and the employment response depends on their effect on aggregate demand. We raise the possibility that in response to labor supply shocks firms adjust efficiency, rendering TFP endogenous to firms’ production decisions. We present robust cross-country evidence of a strong negative correlation between growth in TFP and labor inputs over the medium to long run. In addition, when using instruments to capture changes in hours worked that are independent of TFP shocks, we find that cross-country increases in labor input cause reductions in TFP growth. These results have important policy implications, including that low productivity growth in some countries may partly be a side effect of strong labor market performance. By the same token, countries facing a declining workforce, say, because of aging, may see accelerating TFP as firms find better ways of employing workers.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 13/97.

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Length: 31
Date of creation: 03 May 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:13/97
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  1. Burnside, C & Eichenbaum, M & Rebelo, S, 1995. "Capital Utilization and Returns to Scale," RCER Working Papers 402, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  2. Ohanian, Lee & Raffo, Andrea & Rogerson, Richard, 2008. "Long-term changes in labor supply and taxes: Evidence from OECD countries, 1956-2004," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(8), pages 1353-1362, November.
  3. Paul Beaudry & Fabrice Collard & David A. Green, 2005. "Explaining Productivity Growth: The Role of Demographics," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 10, pages 45-58, Spring.
  4. Mary O'Mahony & Marcel P. Timmer, 2009. "Output, Input and Productivity Measures at the Industry Level: The EU KLEMS Database," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(538), pages F374-F403, 06.
  5. Paul Romer, 1989. "Endogenous Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 3210, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. repec:cup:cbooks:9781107412446 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Dale W. Jorgenson, 2012. "The World KLEMS Initiative," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 24, pages 5-19, Fall.
  8. Susanto Basu, 1995. "Procyclical Productivity: Increasing Returns or Cyclical Utilization?," NBER Working Papers 5336, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 1991. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198284345.
  10. Holmes, Thomas J. & Jr., James A. Schmitz, 2001. "A gain from trade: From unproductive to productive entrepreneurship," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 417-446, April.
  11. van Ark, Bart, 1998. "Productivity," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 171-174, June.
  12. Ian Dew-Becker & Robert J. Gordon, 2012. "The Role of Labor-Market Changes in the Slowdown of European Productivity," Review of Economics and Institutions, Università di Perugia, vol. 3(2).
  13. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521198875 is not listed on IDEAS
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