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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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Craig Burnside & Martin Eichenbaum & Sergio Rebelo, 1995. "Capital utilization and returns to scale," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 95-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  4. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 2005. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199279173, March.
  5. Paul M Romer, 1999. "Endogenous Technological Change," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2135, David K. Levine.
  6. Lee Ohanian & Andrea Raffo & Richard Rogerson, 2006. "Long-term changes in labor supply and taxes: evidence from OECD countries, 1956-2004," Research Working Paper RWP 06-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
  7. van Ark, Bart, 1998. "Productivity," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 171-174, June.
  8. Susanto Basu, 1995. "Procyclical Productivity: Increasing Returns or Cyclical Utilization?," NBER Working Papers 5336, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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).
  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. Dale W. Jorgenson, 2012. "The World KLEMS Initiative," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 24, pages 5-19, Fall.
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