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Cyclical Productivity with Unobserved Input Variation

  • Susanto Basu
  • Miles S. Kimball

In this paper, we derive and estimate relationships governing variable utilization of capital and labor for a firm solving a dynamic cost-minimization problem. Our method allows for (i) imperfect competition, (ii) increasing returns to scale, (iii) unobserved changes in utilization, (iv) unobserved changes in technology, (v) unobserved fluctuations in the factor prices of capital and labor, (vi) unobserved fluctuations in the shadow price of output, and (vii) the non-existence of a value-added production function. We can estimate the parameters of interest without imposing specific functional forms or using restrictions from assuming the existence of a representative consumer. We find that variable capital and labor utilization explain 40-60 percent of the cyclicality of the Solow residual in U.S. manufacturing, so true technology shocks have a lower correlation with output than the RBC literature assumes. Controlling for variable utilization also eliminates the evidence for increasing returns to scale. We show that our model-based proxies for variable utilization are valid even when extending the workweek of capital potentially has two costs: a shift premium paid to workers, as well as a higher rate of depreciation. Thus, these proxies can be used under very general conditions in a wide range of empirical work.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5915.

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Date of creation: Feb 1997
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5915
Note: EFG
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  1. Caballero, Ricardo J. & Lyons, Richard K., 1992. "External effects in U.S. procyclical productivity," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 209-225, April.
  2. Laurence Ball & David Romer, 1987. "Real Rigidities and the Non-Neutrality of Money," NBER Working Papers 2476, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. GalĂ­, Jordi, 1996. "Technology, Employment, and the Business Cycle: Do Technology Shocks Explain Aggregate Fluctuations?," CEPR Discussion Papers 1499, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Farmer Roger E. A. & Guo Jang-Ting, 1994. "Real Business Cycles and the Animal Spirits Hypothesis," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 42-72, June.
  5. Bils, Mark, 1987. "The Cyclical Behavior of Marginal Cost and Price," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 838-55, December.
  6. Basu, S. & Fernald, J.G., 1993. "Are Apparent Productive Spillovers a Figment of Specification Error," Papers 93-22, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
  7. Robert E. Hall, 1986. "The Relation Between Price and Marginal Cost in U.S. Industry," NBER Working Papers 1785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Gary D. Hansen & Thomas J. Sargent, 1987. "Straight Time and Overtime in Equilibrium," UCLA Economics Working Papers 455, UCLA Department of Economics.
  9. George S Olley & Ariel Pakes, 1992. "The Dynamics Of Productivity In The Telecommunications Equipment Industry," Working Papers 92-2, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  10. Ramey, Valerie A, 1989. "Inventories as Factors of Production and Economic Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 338-54, June.
  11. Mark Bils & Jang-Ok Cho, 1993. "Cyclical factor utilization," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 79, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  12. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1989. "Does Monetary Policy Matter? A New Test in the Spirit of Friedman and Schwartz," NBER Working Papers 2966, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Finn, Mary G., 1995. "Variance properties of Solow's productivity residual and their cyclical implications," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 19(5-7), pages 1249-1281.
  14. Ana M. Aizcorbe & Sharon Kozicki, 1995. "The comovement of output and labor productivity in aggregate data for auto assembly plants," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 95-33, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  15. Hall, George J., 1996. "Overtime, effort, and the propagation of business cycle shocks," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 139-160, August.
  16. Julio J. Rotemberg & Michael Woodford, 1993. "Dynamic General Equilibrium Models with Imperfectly Competitive Product Markets," NBER Working Papers 4502, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Miles S. Kimball & Michael Woodford, 1994. "The quantitative analysis of the basic neomonetarist model," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, pages 1241-1289.
  18. Craig Burnside & Martin Eichenbaum & Sergio Rebelo, 1990. "Labor Hoarding and the Business Cycle," NBER Working Papers 3556, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Craig Burnside & Martin Eichenbaum, 1994. "Factor Hoarding and the Propagation of Business Cycles Shocks," NBER Working Papers 4675, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Rotemberg, Julio J & Summers, Lawrence H, 1990. "Inflexible Prices and Procyclical Productivity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(4), pages 851-74, November.
  21. Matthew D. Shapiro, 1996. "Macroeconomic Implications of Variation in the Workweek of Capital," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(2), pages 79-134.
  22. Shapiro, Matthew D, 1993. "Cyclical Productivity and the Workweek of Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 229-33, May.
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