Productivity Rises in the U.S., Slumps in Eurozone

Grew 2.5% in U.S., fell 1% in Eurozone

Productivity in the 16 euro nations fell last year due to the recession but continued to rise in the U.S., narrowing the transatlantic gap, the Conference Board economic institute said on Jan. 20.

In the single currency bloc in 2009, productivity -- in terms of output per hour -- fell 1%, yet remained strong in the United States, growing 2.5%.

"These are unusually large differences in productivity growth between the United States and Europe," said Conference Board chief economist Bart van Ark. "U.S. employers have reacted much more strongly to the recession than their European counterparts in terms of cutting jobs and hours," he said.

Faced with the crisis, U.S. employers slashed jobs as their EU counterparts preferred to temporarily stand workers down rather than lay them off, leading to a drop in productivity with staff idle.

However the institute forecast a turnaround for 2010, with productivity in the eurozone predicted to grow by two percent, compared to three percent growth across the Atlantic.

"In 2010, both Europe and the United States will see higher productivity growth coming out of recession," van Ark said. "However a jobless productivity recovery is the most likely scenario in both regions."

Of the major European economies, productivity in Germany dropped 2.2% last year, while Britain recorded a 1.9% slump. France was one of the few to record any growth, with its productivity rising 0.3%.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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