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July 1995, Vol. 118, No. 7
Kent Kunze, Mary Jablonski, and Virginia Klarquist
T his article introduces a newly adopted method for constructing the output measures associated with industry labor productivity statistics generated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Little change in the long-term movements of labor productivity-output per hour-occurred as a consequence of switching from the original method to the new one. This suggests that the original, although not consistent with modern developments in the economic theory of production, was providing reasonable measures of the trends in industry labor productivity.
Studies of productivity in individual industries have been carried out by the Bureau for many years. In 1898, the Bureau studied and reported on the displacement of human labor by machinery in 60 manufacturing industries.1 The impact of productivity growth on employment remained a focus of research at the Bureau at the time of the Great Depression. During this era, the Bureau began to publish indexes of output per hour. The indexes were based on production data from the Bureau of the Census and BLS employment data. In 1940, Congress authorized the Bureau of Labor Statistics to undertake continuing studies of productivity and technological change. In response, the Bureau extended productivity measures that had been developed by the National Research Project of the Works Progress Administration2 and published measures for selected industries.
This excerpt is from an article published in the July 1995 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 See C. D. Wright, Thirteenth Annual Report (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1898)
2 Harry Magdoff, Irving H. Siegel, and Milton B. Davis, Production, Employment, and Productivity in 59 Manufacturing Industries, 1919-1936, Report S-1, 3 vols. (Philadelphia, Works Progress Administration, National research Project, 1939).
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