I’m always a little skeptical of business statistics from the government; they often don’t tell us what we really want or need to know.
However, I’m at least a little bit intrigued by the latest figures on productivity.
The government’s productivity figure is a measure of how much an employee produces per hour. It would be nice if this figure told us something about the application of lean principles in the marketplace, or how that is changing over time, but the metric is probably too rough to do that.
In any case, productivity for the third quarter of this year was unchanged after a 1.2 percent gain in the second quarter. That’s because output and hours both increased 1.6 percent.
The one interesting part of this report (which comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics) is the breakdown of the productivity figure.
It’s actually an average of three figures, for business (whose productivity went up 0.1 percent), non-farm business (productivity unchanged) and manufacturing, where productivity went up 5.9 percent. (I’m not clear on exactly what is included in each of the first two categories.)
And the manufacturing figure is an average of two other figures: an 8.6 percent increase for durable goods manufacturers, and an increase of 2.0 percent for nondurable goods manufacturers.
(Yes, I know, for each of those “average” figures, if you add the category numbers together and divide by the number of categories, you don’t get the government’s figure. If anyone can explain that, please post a comment.)
The point is that, when it comes to productivity (as measured by the government), manufacturing is doing better than other sectors.
Does this mean anything? Can we say that lean has anything to do with the difference? I look forward to your comments.