Productivity

  • November 11, 1996

    Productivity growth in the commercial service sector

    For over three decades, measured productivity growth in the commercial service sector has consistently lagged behind that of the goods-producing sector. At the same time, the service sector has greatly expanded its share of output and employment. Some commentators have suggested that this trend will reduce growth in total economy-wide productivity. In this article, the author reviews recent trends in productivity growth in services and the main factors affecting it. She concludes that services will likely contribute to increases in future productivity growth. There is a great diversity of experience within the service sector. While productivity is falling in some industries, factors such as technological change, deregulation, and increased competition have helped to increase it in others. Moreover, much of the growth in commercial service output is occurring in those industries with relatively high productivity growth. Difficulties in measuring output for some service activities may also be resulting in underestimation of output and productivity growth. To the extent that services are used as intermediate inputs in the production of goods, underestimating productivity growth in the service industry would cause an offsetting overestimation of productivity growth in goods-producing industries.

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