Productivity And Costs: SQUEEEEZE!


On YOU, the worker.

Nonfarm business sector labor productivity increased at a 2.6 percent annual rate during the fourth quarter of 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This gain in productivity reflects increases of 4.5 percent in output and 1.8 percent in hours worked. (All quarterly percent changes in this release are seasonally adjusted annual rates.) Productivity increased 1.7 percent over the last four quarters (table A). Annual average productivity increased 3.6 percent from 2009 to 2010 (table C). Quarterly measures provide information on business cycles whereas annual measures are compared to  long-term trends.

Heh, that sounds pretty decent.  But is it?

I guess that depends on which side of the table you might be on – the employer or employee!

Ow my ass!  Ow my ass!

Yeah.  There’s no joy in that table for the employee.  Gains in real hourly earnings?  Where?  You’re losing ground everywhere in manufacturing (gee, you think we’re still exporting all our nice manufacturing jobs to China?) while there’s no real gain of substance in non-manufacturing either.

This table just plain sucks from the employee standpoint.  From the employer standpoint it’s pretty good, as the “whip the employee” game continues unabated.

Work harder and faster slave, or lose your job!

The bottom line: Workers ultimately buy the products that businesses make.  Input costs (commodities) are up monstrously, and real labor compensation is flat-to-down.  Exactly how are those input costs going to wind up being covered again?

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