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Worker productivity is at its lowest in 48 years — here’s why it’s an issue

Businesses face low productivity and economists are trying to figure out why

SHARE Worker productivity is at its lowest in 48 years — here’s why it’s an issue
An employee works on a car on the assembly line at the BMW Spartanburg plant in Greer, S.C.

An employee works on a car on the assembly line at the BMW Spartanburg plant in Greer, S.C., Wednesday, October 19, 2022.

Sean Rayford, Associated Press

Work in the United States has taken a plunge in productivity, and it’s concerning employers. According to The Washington Post, this decline hasn’t been seen in decades and is the sharpest plunge in 48 years.

The productivity plunge has been observed in the nonfarm business sector. Employees are producing less while they’re clocked in each day, raising concerns among economists, per NPR. This slowdown in productivity comes at a time of “quiet quitting,” a term to describe slowing down in daily responsibilities, which has circulated on social media.

So, why is low productivity a problem?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, labor productivity is essential for economic growth. Work productivity allows the economy to grow in labor income and help improve living standards.

Increased productivity provides more goods and services at lower costs and also helps combat inflation, which would be beneficial to the rising prices the U.S. is currently facing, per the Deseret News.

These productivity problems are coming amidst other issues in the U.S. economy, such as employee shortages and high burnout. If productivity continues to decline, the U.S. economy will likely struggle, opportunities will become scarce and quality of life will decrease, according to NPR.

What is causing this decline in productivity?

There are several theories from economists as to why productivity has taken a hit this year. One theory is the current job market. Employees hold leverage during the labor shortage as companies lose workers to better-paid or more flexible jobs.

Another proposed theory is that workers are in a funk since the pandemic. There’s a disconnect between work and reward, as well as increased leniency leading to fewer goods produced, since it’s currently more difficult for employers to replace under-performing employees, according to The Washington Post.