UK labour productivity since the onset of the crisis — an international and historical perspective

Quarterly Bulletin 2012 Q2
Published on 20 June 2012

By Abigail Hughes and Jumana Saleheen of the Bank’s International Economic Analysis Division.

UK labour productivity has been persistently weak since the onset of the recent financial crisis. This suggests that there is significant spare capacity within UK companies, but business surveys instead point to little spare capacity. This article aims to shed light on this puzzle by looking at cross-country and historical evidence. It finds that it has been unusual to see persistently weak labour productivity after previous financial crises in advanced economies. UK labour productivity stands out as being weak relative to historic episodes; it is also weak compared to other countries in the recent crisis. This weakness is concentrated in the energy and service sectors, suggesting the supply potential of the economy has grown more slowly than usual since the start of the crisis.

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