Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bernanke on Productivity

Here's a passage from Fed Chairman Bernanke's speech today that I thought was insightful. Even though U.S. productivity growth - one of the most important economic indicators, if not the most important - has slowed in recent quarters, the longer run trend still looks promising...

That said, longer-run trends in the growth of productivity are very difficult to predict. During the first half of the decade, productivity in the nonfarm business sector increased at an unusually high average annual rate of about 3 percent. However, according to current estimates, productivity growth slowed in the second quarter of this year and came to a halt in the third quarter. Moreover, the strength of recent hiring raises the possibility of subpar productivity growth in the fourth quarter as well. When all is said and done, however, I expect that the latest numbers will turn out to have been a reflection of the typical volatility in the data and some cyclical response to the slowing in economic activity, not a signal of a sea change in the longer-run outlook for productivity growth.


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