Daily Archives: February 2, 2017

Slow Growth of Labor Productivity

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has published a report finding that labor productivity has grown more slowly after the last recession–in other words, during the Obama administration–than during any other recovery period in recent history. Normally, the response to a recession is for private companies to clean out all of their least productive programs, and the people who worked in those programs find more productive jobs elsewhere. The result is a growth in labor productivity during the recovery period.

Much of Obama’s “stimulus” program, however, was aimed at protecting jobs during the recession, so many less-productive programs managed to survive and the people working in those programs didn’t have the (admittedly stressful) opportunity to find more productive work. Other parts of the stimulus program involved funding of less productive projects that normally wouldn’t have been funded. The result was a slow growth in productivity.

We can see the difference between government and private productivity by comparing the private rail industry with Amtrak and the transit industry. As shown in the table below, transit employees have more than doubled while ridership has grown by just 50 percent, so employee productivity has declined by more than 30 percent.

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