John Irons's Blog


Economic News, Data and Analysis


The US Labor Department Thursday announced that the revised third quarter
productivity growth (SAAR) was 4.5%. This is very good
for the economy. While news reports do a good job of announcing
the latest numbers, they often fail to provide a historical context in
which to evaluate the information.

Below is a graph of US non-farm productivity going back to 1948. As
you can see, productivity growth was strong just after WWII and remained
relatively strong until the early 70’s when it began to dip. We’ve seen
growth at the current level for only two quarters in the past ten years.

Hopefully the strength in productivity growth (2.5% over the past year,
and 4.5% in the third quarter) will continue to build.

Source: Quarterly
Labor Productivity

Where to go for Productivity Data?

The productivity data for the US can be found at the Quarterly
Labor Productivity Home Page
from the Department of Labor. For data
from other countries take a look at the OECD
web site for many of the basic series including the national
and related data. Stat-USA
has data from many government data series on-line for registered subscribers
and the NIPA Visualization
also has a number of series as well.

Other parts of this site have more resources on economic
and government agencies.


This is the point where most commentators take a leap into the unknown
by predicting how the economy will do in the future. Some say that good
times are ahead in the “new economy” as new technologies will drive us
to a new era of growth. Some predict gloom and doom or claim recession
lies ahead because of global competition, runaway entitlements, or even
the year 2000

I won’t bother to leave myself open for error, at least not today.

When all is said and done, productivity growth is perhaps the most important
gauge of the performance of the economy. Let’s hope that the strong growth

See Also:


Productivity Growth Matters…
a lot. 

Number of years to double your standard of living: 


Productivity Growth Time to double Economic Standard of Living




139 years 

47 years 

29 years 

21 years 

16 years


Economic output in 50 years: 

(relative to today with same labor input, Growth: 0.5% – 4.5%) 


Filed under: Data

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