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US workers have gotten way less productive. No one is sure why.

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US workers have gotten way less productive. No one is sure why.

Bosses and economists are troubled by the worst drop in US worker output since 1947

The Washington Post,

5 min read
2 take-aways
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What's inside?

Companies are experiencing a slump in knowledge workers’ productivity, but they don’t know why. 

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Company leaders and economists know that white-collar workers produced less in the first half of 2022 than they produced in each the past two years, but are unsure why. Washington Post reporters Taylor Telford and Andrew Van Dam present suggestions from several experts regarding the cause of the slowdown after the pandemic surge in productivity. Possibilities include the tight labor market, the issue of remote versus in-person work and employees practicing “quiet quitting.” One major concern is how reduced output feeds inflation and how a possible recession in 2023 could further reduce output.


In the first half of 2022, productivity fell by a record amount, leaving experts with many explanations, but few answers.

The COVID pandemic brought a surprising boost in productivity, causing some economists to think increased remote work would mark the start of a long-term upward trend. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics ended that line of thinking with its data from the first half of 2022, which revealed the steepest decline in knowledge worker productivity ever reported. Economists, CEOs and other leaders suggest a number of reasons for the drop, but definitive answers remain elusive.

Manufacturing industries – where the numbers are “strong” – can more easily and accurately measure productivity, the output of an employee in an hour. Knowledge workers’ productivity, which proves harder...

About the Authors

 Taylor Telford covers business culture for The Washington Post where Andrew Van Dam is a reporter. 

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