In the year and a half leading up to mid-2003, both employment and labour force participation increased at an unusually rapid pace compared to domestic economic activity. Gains in employment were unusually large, relative to output growth, compared to gains in total hours worked. This is explained by a faster rate of increase in the participation rate of the 55 and older age group, many of whom opted for part-time employment. This shift in the composition of employment contributed to a reduction in the length of the average workweek in 2002. As a result, labour input progressed at a rate that was markedly slower than for employment and more in line with its historical relationship to output growth.
The authors anticipate that the 55 and older age group will continue to participate strongly in the labour force, but that as the economy rebounds and uncertainty diminishes, the cyclical component in the growth of part-time work should diminish and that of full-time employment increase. Employment growth should moderate in relation to output growth and there may be a cyclical rebound in labour productivity as total hours worked increases during the initial recovery in output growth.