Daily Pulse

Worker productivity up again

Joel Patterson Feb 2, 2012

The Pulse is up today on news that the American worker is finally running out of productivity bandwidth. According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. workers were 0.7 percent more productive in the fourth quarter of 2011, down sharply from previous quarters.

Productivity, as the Labor Department explains in its report, follows this formula: “Labor productivity, or output per hour, is calculated by dividing an index of real output by an index of hours worked of all persons, including employees, proprietors, and unpaid family workers.”

Today’s uptick in productivity is the result of Americans working 2.9 percent more hours and producing 3.6 percent more snorkels, or Chevys, or cleaner swimming pools, or whatever they work on all day. Our 0.7 percent hike in productivity in the fourth quarter comes after a 1.9 percent jump in the third, so while we’re doing more, we’re doing less of it.

So what? Well, we’re tapped out — that’s what. But being pushed to a limit could be a good thing, because with promising signs of growth on the horizon, the next logical step for growing businesses is to hire more Americans.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.