Economic Update: Productivity Dynamics in U.S. Manufacturing


Productivity Dynamics in U.S. Manufacturing: An Industry-Based Analysis is the first in a series of MAPI Foundation studies whose goal is to shed light on productivity dynamics in the manufacturing sector from the perspective of questions that are unique to the present-day economic and technological climate. The current study makes use of an expanding dataset on productivity growth in detailed manufacturing industries to analyze the industry pattern of the U.S. manufacturing productivity evolution. The results of a dynamic ranking analysis of manufacturing subsector productivity performance, and performance along a number of variables that are known to impact productivity, are first discussed. This is followed by a presentation of the results of estimating one-equation models designed to identify key drivers of multifactor productivity growth and labor productivity growth in select manufacturing subsectors. Finally, modest statistical evidence is offered to support the hypothesis of cross-industry impacts of productivity determination.

The results suggest an uncertain outlook for U.S. manufacturing productivity performance in the wake of a sharp deceleration in the growth of labor productivity in the computer and electronic products subsector, which has played an outsized role in total manufacturing productivity strength. Findings point to the need for a program that stimulates capital investment, innovation investment, and workforce human capital in a unified approach for enhancing U.S. manufacturing productivity performance during this period of global integration and disruptive technological advancement.

“Statistical analysis shows a strong interconnectedness of productivity performance across subsectors. This evidence supports the hypothesis that because of supply chain linkages, innovation spillovers, cluster impacts, and trade channels, productivity determination is not independent across manufacturing industries. When changes are made in one industry that promote productivity, these can affect productivity performance in other industries as well.”
— Cliff Waldman, Chief Economist, MAPI Foundation