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U.S. Productivity Rises in 2009, Despite the Recession

The Conference Board has just reported that U.S. productivity grew 2.5 percent (in per hour terms) in 2009. This departure from the prevailing downward trend in U.S. productivity was largely explained by dramatically reduced working hours that offset output decline (employment fell by 3.6 percent in 2009; hours worked per worker by 1.5 percent.) U.S. productivity growth is projected at 3 percent for 2010.
European productivity growth turned negative in 2009, falling far behind the United States. Output per hour fell 1 percent in the Euro area (the 16 European nations that use the Euro currency).
"These are unusually large differences in productivity growth between the United States and Europe," said Bart van Ark, chief economist of The Conference Board. "U.S. employers have reacted much more strongly to the recession than their European counterparts in terms of cutting jobs and hours. In 2010, both Europe and the United States will see higher productivity growth coming out of recession. However, a jobless productivity recovery is the most likely scenario in both regions."
World productivity growth also declined in 2009 (-1 percent in terms of output per worker), putting it in negative territory for the first time in almost two decades, but it is expected to recover strongly in 2010 as both emerging and developing economies show stronger productivity performance.

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