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Department ofEconomics


Manufacturing Productivity and US Economic Growth

Alexander J. Field

Louis P. Cain, Price Fishback, and Paul Rhode, eds., Oxford Handbook of American Economic History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 213-34.

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This chapter examines the historical record of manufacturing productivity growth in the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth century in the context of broader trends in private nonfarm economy productivity. TFP growth in manufacturing peaked in the 1920s and has trended generally downwards, with a notable but temporary uptick between 1995 and 2005. In contrast, private nonfarm economy TFP growth peaked in the 1930s. Manufacturing made the largest percentage point contribution to PNE TFP growth in the 1920s (1919-1929), followed by 1929-41 and 1973-95. Manufacturing’s share of PNE TFP growth was highest in 1919-29 and 1973-95. The sector’s labor productivity growth was also highest in the interwar period and between 1995 and 2005.


LSB Research, ECON, 2018, Alexander Field