Business: Productivity: Seeking That Old Magic

THE high rate of U.S. productivity has long been regarded as an American elixir, more responsible than anything else for the nation's envied standard of living and its ability to compete strongly in world markets. Rich investments in technology and worker training have made the value of output per man-hour in the U.S. the world's highest. Historically, that value has risen at a rate of about 3% a year. In the past four years, however, the annual increase has averaged only 1.7%, substantially less than that of Japan and major West European nations....

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