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The Labor Productivity Puzzle

  • Edward Prescott

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)

  • Ellen McGrattan

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)

Prior to the mid-1980s, labor productivity growth was a useful barometer of the U.S. economy's performance: it was low during economic recessions and high during expansions. Since then, labor productivity has become significantly less procyclical. In the recent recession of 2008-2009, labor productivity actually rose as GDP plummeted. These facts have motivated the development of new business cycle theories because the conventional view is that they are inconsistent with existing business cycle theory. In this paper, we analyze recent events with existing theory and find that the labor productivity puzzle is much less of a puzzle than previously thought. In light of these findings, we argue that policy agendas arising from new untested theories should be disregarded.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2012 Meeting Papers with number 644.

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Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:red:sed012:644
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Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

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  1. Galí, Jordi & van Rens, Thijs, 2010. "The Vanishing Procyclicality of Labor Productivity," IZA Discussion Papers 5099, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Carol Corrado & John Haltiwanger & Daniel Sichel, 2005. "Introduction to "Measuring Capital in the New Economy"," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Capital in the New Economy, pages 1-10 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Casey B. Mulligan, 2011. "Rising Labor Productivity during the 2008-9 Recession," NBER Working Papers 17584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Eric Sims & Michael Jason Pries, 2011. "Reallocation and the Changing Nature of Economic Fluctuations," 2011 Meeting Papers 1258, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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  7. Corrado, Carol & Haltiwanger, John & Sichel, Daniel (ed.), 2005. "Measuring Capital in the New Economy," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 0, number 9780226116129.
  8. Charles R. Hulten, 2010. "Decoding Microsoft: Intangible Capital as a Source of Company Growth," NBER Working Papers 15799, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Lee E. Ohanian & Andrea Raffo, 2011. "Aggregate hours worked in OECD countries: new measurement and implications for business cycles," International Finance Discussion Papers 1039, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  10. 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.
  11. Carol Corrado & Charles R. Hulten & Daniel E. Sichel, 2006. "Intangible capital and economic growth," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2006-24, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  12. David Berger, 2012. "Countercyclical Restructuring and Jobless Recoveries," 2012 Meeting Papers 1179, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  13. Van Trinh, Le Thi & Gibson, John & Oxley, Les, 2005. "Measuring the stock of human capital in New Zealand," Mathematics and Computers in Simulation (MATCOM), Elsevier, vol. 68(5), pages 484-497.
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