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ICT-Producing Sector on Business Activity

  • Hoon Hian Teck


    (School of Economics and Social Sciences, Singapore Management University)

  • Edmund S. Phelps


    (Columbia University)

It seems to be taken for granted by many commentators that the sharp decline in prices of computers, telecommunications equipment and software resulting from the technological improvements in the information and communications technology (ICT)-producing sector is good for jobs and is a major driving force behind the non-inflationary employment miracle and booming stock market in the latter half of the nineties in the U.S. and their recurrence since 2004. We show that, in our model, a technical improvement in the ICT-producing sector by itself cannot explain a simultaneous increase in employment and a risein firms’ valuation (or Tobin’s Q ratio). There are two cases. If the elasticity of equipment price (pI ) with respect to ICT-producing sector’s productivity is less than one, labor’s value marginal productivity increases thus pulling up the demand wage and expanding employment. However, the increased output by adding to the capital stock and thus driving down future capital rentals causes a decline in firms’ valuation, q per unit, even though Tobin’s Q (= q=pI ) is up. If the elasticity is greater than one, equipment prices fall so dramatically that labor’s value marginal productivity declines, employment in the ICT-using sector expands proportionately more than the increase in capital stock, thus raising future capital rentals, so both firms’ valuation and Tobin’s Q rise; but then real demand wage falls and employment contracts. The key to generating a booming stock market alongside employment expansion is to hypothesize that when technical improvement in the ICT-producing sector occurs, the market forms an expectation of future productivity gains to be reaped in the ICT-using sector. Then we can explain not only the stock market boom and associated rise in investment spending and employment in the period 1995-2000 but also the subsequent decline in employment, in Tobin’s Q and in investment spending in 2001, with consumption holding up well as productivity gains in the ICT-using sector were realized. An anticipation of a future TFP improvement in the ICT-using sector can once more play the role of raising the stock market.

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Paper provided by Singapore Management University, School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 07-2006.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in SMU Economics and Statistics Working Paper Series
Handle: RePEc:siu:wpaper:07-2006
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  1. Alexander J. Field, 2003. "The Most Technologically Progressive Decade of the Century," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(4), pages 1399-1413, September.
  2. William Nordhaus, 2005. "The Sources of the Productivity Rebound and the Manufacturing Employment Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 11354, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ricardo J. Caballero & Mohamad L. Hammour, 2002. "Speculative Growth," NBER Working Papers 9381, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Beaudry, Paul & Portier, Franck, 2003. "Stock Prices, News and Economic Fluctuations," IDEI Working Papers 158, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  5. Ricardo Caballero & Emmanuel Farhi & Mohamad L. Hammour, 2004. "Speculative Growth: Hints from the US Economy," NBER Working Papers 10518, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2000. "Beyond Computation: Information Technology, Organizational Transformation and Business Performance," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 23-48, Fall.
  7. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:117:y:2002:i:1:p:339-376 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 1999. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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