Projecting Productivity Growth: Lessons from the U.S. Growth Resurgence

Dale W. Jorgenson, Mun S. Ho, and Kevin J. Stiroh
Economic Review, Vol. 87, No. 3, 2002

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Following the 1995–2000 period of more rapid output growth and lower inflation in the United States, economists have strenuously debated whether improvements in economic performance can be sustained. The recession that began in March 2001 intensified the debate, and the economic impacts of the events of September 11 have yet to be fully understood. Both factors add to the considerable uncertainties about future growth that currently face decision makers in both the public and private sectors.

In this article, the authors analyze the sources of U.S. labor productivity growth in the post-1995 period and present projections for both output and labor productivity growth for the next decade. Despite the 2001 downward revisions to U.S. gross domestic product and software investment, the authors show that information technology (IT) played a substantial role in the U.S. productivity revival. The article then outlines a methodology for projecting trend output and productivity growth. The base-case projection puts the rate of trend productivity growth at 2.21 percent per year over the next decade with a range of 1.33 to 2.92 percent, reflecting fundamental uncertainties about the rate of technological progress in IT-production and investment patterns. The central projection is only slightly below the average growth rate of 2.36 percent during the 1995–2000 period.

August 2002