Business cycles and productivity growth: are temporary downturns productive or wasteful?

Malley, J. and Muscatelli, V.A. (1999) Business cycles and productivity growth: are temporary downturns productive or wasteful? Research in Economics, 53(4), pp. 337-364. (doi: 10.1006/reec.1999.0203)

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This paper investigates the relationship between the structure of the business cycle and total factor productivity (TFP) growth in U.S. manufacturing. Previous empirical studies on cycle-growth interactions have been conducted at the aggregate level, and have produced mixed results. In contrast, we examine the dynamic linkages between temporary employment shocks and TFP at the industry level, using the NBER Productivity Database. Given the substantial differences in factor intensities, costs and the nature of innovation and productivity-enhancing activities across industries, there are good reasons why cycle-growth interactions may be more readily captured at the sectoral level. We construct an exactly identified Vector Autoregressive model for employment and TFP growth, and find strong support for the “opportunity-cost” view of business cycle-productivity growth interaction. This result suggests that recessions can lead to TFP growth through reorganization and restructuring effects. On the other hand, we find little support for the notion that temporary booms increase TFP through “learning-by-doing” effects. The responsiveness of TFP to employment shocks also seems to be related to the degree of job reallocation within individual industries and the capital intensity of the industry in question. This is further evidence in favour of the view that employment shocks can trigger reorganization effects. Finally, we suggest possible future avenues for this research, including the adjustment of TFP measures to allow for variable factor utilization over the cycle.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Muscatelli, Professor Anton and Malley, Professor Jim
Authors: Malley, J., and Muscatelli, V.A.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Economics
Journal Name:Research in Economics
Publisher:Academic Press
ISSN (Online):0090-9451
Published Online:27 March 2002

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
231581Business Cycles and Long-run Growth: An Investigation for the OECD EconomicsAnton MuscatelliEconomic & Social Research Council (ESRC)R000237816Principal's Office