While most advanced economies have displayed significant drops in GDP during the last years, the behavior of labor market variables (employment, unemployment, number of hours) has been quite different across countries.
In countries such as the US or Spain we have seen a large decline in employment/hours and the corresponding increase in unemployment. In countries such as Germany or France or Sweden, employment and hours have fallen much less.
Below is data on labor productivity measured as GDP per hour worked in four countries (data is annual so we are missing the first quarters of 2009). In the case of Sweden and Germany we can see that the fall in GDP has been much larger than the decrease in hours worked leading to a decline in productivity. In the case of the US productivity has remained stable. In the case of Spain the fall in employment and hours has been much larger than the decrease in GDP which has produced a doubling of the productivity growth rates in 2007/08 relative to the 2003-06 period.
Behind these figures we probably have a composition effect (different sectors being affected differently by the crisis) but also different labor market responses to the crisis, where in some cases there has been a conscious effort to reduce the impact on employment.
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