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The Sources of the Productivity Rebound and the Manufacturing Employment Puzzle


  • William Nordhaus


Productivity has rebounded in the last decade while manufacturing employment has declined sharply. The present study uses data on industrial output and employment to examine the sources of these trends. It finds that the productivity rebound since 1995 has been widespread, with approximately two-fifths of the productivity rebound occurring in New Economy industries. Moreover, after suffering a slowdown in the 1970s, productivity growth since 1995 has been at the rapid pace of the earlier 1948-73 period. Finally, the study investigates the relationship between employment and productivity growth. If finds that the relevant elasticities indicate that more rapid productivity growth leads to increased rather than decreased employment in manufacturing. The results here suggest that productivity is not to be feared - at least not in manufacturing, where the largest recent employment declines have occurred. This shows up most sharply for the most recent period, since 1998. Overall, higher productivity has led to lower prices, expanding demand, and to higher employment, but the partial effects of rapid domestic productivity growth have been more than offset by more rapid productivity growth and price declines from foreign competitors.

Suggested Citation

  • William Nordhaus, 2005. "The Sources of the Productivity Rebound and the Manufacturing Employment Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 11354, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11354
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    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Camille Hémet, 2015. "Diversity and employment prospects: neighbors matter!," Working Papers 2015/4, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    2. Hoon Hian Teck & Edmund S. Phelps, 2006. "ICT-Producing Sector on Business Activity," Working Papers 07-2006, Singapore Management University, School of Economics.
    3. Robert Z. Lawrence & Lawrence Edwards, 2013. "US Employment Deindustrialization: Insights from History and the International Experience," Policy Briefs PB13-27, Peterson Institute for International Economics.
    4. Lanaspa, Luis & Sanz-Gracia, Fernando & Vera-Cabello, María, 2016. "The (strong) interdependence between intermediate producer services' attributes and manufacturing location," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 1-12.
    5. 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.
    6. Francesco Venturini, 2009. "The long-run impact of ICT," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 497-515, December.
    7. Nitin Gupta, 2011. "The Differential Effects of Financial Development on India's Industrial Performance," ASARC Working Papers 2011-12, The Australian National University, Australia South Asia Research Centre.
    8. Hian Teck Hoon, 2006. "Effects of Technological Improvement in the ICT-Producing Sector on Business Activity," Macroeconomics Working Papers 22437, East Asian Bureau of Economic Research.
    9. Harald Badinger & Niklas Maydell, 2009. "Legal and Economic Issues in Completing the EU Internal Market for Services: An Interdisciplinary Perspective," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47, pages 693-717, September.
    10. Josheski, Dushko, 2014. "Keynesian macroeconomics without the LM curve: IS-MP-IA model and Taylor rule applied to some CESEE economies," MPRA Paper 53832, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Lone Engbo Christiansen, 2008. "Do Technology Shocks Lead to Productivity Slowdowns? Evidence from Patent Data," IMF Working Papers 08/24, International Monetary Fund.

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    JEL classification:

    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity
    • E1 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models

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