PRODUCTIVITY: Up-at What Cost?

One of the more fashionable worries in U.S. business is that a "productivity crisis," a slowdown in the growth of output per man-hour, is crippling American ability to compete against foreign industry. Some figures compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, indicate that this fear is largely unfounded. In 1971, the BLS reports, unit labor costs—the figure that represents how much productivity gains have softened the impact of wage increases—rose only 2.7% in U.S. manufacturing. That was less than half the rate of the increase in Japan, Canada and some Western...

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