Labor productivity, or output per hour, is calculated by dividing an index
of real output by an index of hours of all persons, including employees,
proprietors, and unpaid family workers.
Here real output is calculated from GDP. So another words the more money that swirls around our economy the more productive we all are for doing exactly the same job. But what if we measure productivity in a more reasonable way?
y(2010) = ( (number of 2010 workers) / 2010 population ) / ( (number of 1939 workers) / 1939 population )
for financial(2010) = (7,630,000 / 309,050,816) / (1,386,000 / 130,879,718) = 2.33
and the picture clicks through to the raw BLS worker by industry data. So according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics it now takes two workers in retail or construction to serve the same number of people that required one person in 1939. 2.33 2010 workers in financial services are required where proportional to the population one 1939 worker was employed.
There are a number of ways to interpret this picture. For instance we know that manufacturing hasn't become more productive it has just been outsourced. One could argue that the financial sector is doing global work or that it just does twice as good a job as it did in 1939, even an extra persons worth from 1967 etc.
Perhaps one industry could be explained in such a fashion but the proportionally higher number of workers required is across many industries
Here the BLS starts some of its sub sector data at dates other than 1939 so you see some industries above with base lines that start in later years. But no matter when the baseline starts the graph shows these industries piling on more and more people to do seemingly the same service for the same number of customers.
Furthermore industries that fall out of political favor suddenly require less workers
Conversely growing the number of workers in an important but less politically favored sector is difficult.
Scientific research and development services provided 621,700 jobs in 2008. Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences accounted for about 90 percent of the jobs; the rest were in research and development in the social sciences and humanities.
Financial activities employed over 8 million people in 2008. Many of these these employees were top students that could easily have, in a more productive society, attempted some useful scientific labor instead of helping bring the world to its economic knees. Without Too Big To Fail maybe some of these workers would right now be making their way towards something useful.
There used to be a story that circulated about Japan's attempt at keeping its citizens employed. After the automation of parking stubs Japan kept an older attendant whose job it was to take the ticket from the person driving, feed it into the machine and hand it back to the driver. But America has a graying working population also. The rate of civilian workforce to the rest of the population stayed at near 50% in 1998, 1998 and 2008. But the percentage of the civilian workforce 45 and older grew from 16% to 21% to 24% respectively in those years.
Resources are another lens to look at productivity. Here is oil consumption in some comparably large and rich nations:
|Country||Barrels per day per 1,000 people||Year|