Is There a Productivity Puzzle in the OECD Economies? Or Why Has Economic Recovery Since the Great Financial Crisis Not Produced Increased Inflation?

Andrew Hughes Hallett

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This paper investigates whether there has been a structural shift in inflation since a recovery began in the OECD economies. For policy purposes, it is important to be sure that such shifts are significant statistically, are likely to be sustained over the near future and be evenly distributed over the member economies so that no one of them is damaged by anti-inflation measures taken to help others. We approach the problem in two steps: first we examine the circumstantial and informal evidence, and then conduct formal statistical tests for structural changes in euro area inflation in 2015-2016. We find no evidence of a structural change. An even distribution of inflation criterion is the closest to being satisfied, but the other two are far from satisfied in any formal sense. The question remains: why has there been no inflation in the recovery since 2014? To answer that question, we demonstrate how low growth in real wages and self-reinforcing low productivity growth produces slow output growth and low inflation; and how low real wages and productivity in turn lead to low investment. This model fits the data well, down to the lack of labour and total factor productivity, and to the substitution of cheaper labour for excess capital stock. It implies a fall in investment spending (also seen in the data) that extends the period for which the low productivity-low inflation outcomes apply.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial and Business Management
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)1789-1805
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Productivity puzzle
  • Capital-labour substitution
  • Static real wages
  • Productivity dynamics

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