NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Labor Productivity: Structural Change and Cyclical Dynamics

Martin Neil Baily, Eric J. Bartelsman, John Haltiwanger

NBER Working Paper No. 5503
Issued in March 1996
NBER Program(s):   EFG

A longstanding puzzle of empirical economics is that average labor productivity declines during recessions and increases during booms. This paper provides a framework to assess the empirical importance of competing hypotheses for explaining the observed procyclicality. For each competing hypothesis we derive the implications for cyclical productivity conditional on expectations of future demand and supply conditions. The novelty of the paper is that we exploit the tremendous heterogeneity in long-run structural changes across individual plants to identify the short-run sources of procyclical productivity. Our findings favor an adjustment cost model which involves a productivity penalty for downsizing as the largest source of procyclical labor productivity.

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Published: Baily, Martin Neil, Eric J. Bartelsman and John Haltiwanger. "Labor Productivity: Structural Change And The Cyclical Dynamics," Review of Economics and Statistics, 2001, v83(3,Aug), 420-433.

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