2023-11-18 , 9950 , 116 , 84
美联储主席格林斯潘回忆录--动荡年代:勇闯新世界-134:The Delphic Future-3
We know with some degree of certainty the size of our population age sixteen and over in 2030. Most of them have already been born.
The proportion of the population,
especially the part under sixty-five years of age, that participates in our labor force is high and reasonably stable.
Our population older than sixty-five years is expected to almost double by 2030, and the current 15 percent participation rate for that part of the labor force will rise as well, thus adding a more than usual number of elderly workers by 2030.
The size of immigration within the politically and culturally feasible range of possibilities does not matter much to the overall labor force forecast.
Our next step is to set the proportion of the total labor force that will likely be employed in 2030 (or in a contiguous year if 2030 happens to be a year of recession).
Given our assumptions and the economy's historical record, it is difficult to imagine the employment rate of the civilian labor force being outside the rather narrow range of 90 to 96 percent
(that is, an unemployment rate between 4 and 10 percent).
America's fifty-year average is more than 94 percent,
with nonrecession years (the assumption for 2030) near 95 percent.
Combining labor force participation rates, population projections, a near 5 percent unemployment rate, and a stable workweek yields an annual growth rate in hours worked in the United States through 2030 of 0.5 percent.*
The most encouraging aspect of productivity growth is how remarkably stable it has been for the last century and more.
Over much of that period, a substantial boost in U.S. productivity reflected the shift of workers from farms to urban factories and service establishments.
But gains in national productivity owing to farmworkers moving into higher-productivity nonfarm jobs are essentially over.
Less than 2 percent of the U.S. workforce remains on farms, and that number is not likely to change much.
Thus, future national productivity growth will closely mirror the growth in nonfarm productivity.
Output per hour is the best measure we have of that growth.
*After a long decline from sixty-hour workweeks a couple of centuries ago, factory average weekly hours settled at forty just after World War II and have held steady ever since.
The shift of the employment share to the service sector (where the workweek is shorter) has been reflected in a slight overall decline in the weekly average.
Even to this day output per hour on farms is less than in nonfarm regions, despite the remarkable gains in crop and livestock yields achieved since the end of World War II.
THE DELPHIC FUTURE
All gains in efficiency are the result of new ideas in the way people organize their physical reality.
To be sure, twenty-first-century human beings are physically taller and stronger than earlier generations, thanks to improved nutrition and health.
But that has added very little to our ability to produce.
Over the generations it has been new ideas embodied in newly built plant and equipment that better leverage and multiply human effort.
From the development of the textile loom two centuries ago to today's Internet,
output per hour has increased fiftyfold.
Statisticians usually attribute the growth in output per hour to three primary economic "causes":
the quantity of physical plant and equipment, which they call "capital deepening";
the quality of labor input, which is a reflection of education;
and the otherwise unexplained, which they infer results from organizational restructuring and new insights in how to generate the nation's output.
In all categories, productivity growth results from ideas translated into valued goods and services.
The quality of raw materials used in the production process adds only modestly.
If we smooth through the raw data on output per hour, a remarkably stable pattern of growth emerges, going back to 1870.
Annual growth of nonfarm business output per hour has averaged close to 2.2 percent since then.
Even without adjusting for the business cycle, wars, and other crises,
the range of overlapping consecutive fifteen-year averages of the annual increase
in output per hour stays consistently between 1 and 3 percent.*
I suspect that a good deal of even that modest volatility is statistical "noise,"
random aberrations resulting from the uncertain quality of the data, especially
for the years preceding World War II.
There is little doubt, however, that the burst of U.S. nonfarm productivity growth from 1995 to 2002 has given way to a lessened pace of growth.
Output per hour, for example, after the large surge in growth peaked at 4 percent (a four-quarter rate of change) and above in 2002 and 2003, slipped to a 1 percent rate by the first quarter of 2007.
*Growth rates slowed following the sharp increase in energy costs in the 1970s and presumably because of it.
The technology boom of the past decade has accelerated growth in output per hour, restoring it to its long-term trend.
THE AGE OF TURBULENCE
Profitable opportunities for further advance appear to have temporarily dwindled, as has often occurred in the past.
Innovative expansion seems to come in waves.
New products and new companies were major factors in the surge of new issues of stock between 1997 and 2000, and the apparent fall-off in applications of innovation since then has been reflected in the decline in stock issuance.
The slowdown in innovation is particularly evident in the dramatic swing in corporations' use of their internal cash flow
(the result of earlier gains in the application of new technologies)
from fixed investment to buybacks of company common stock and cash disbursed to
shareholders in the process of implementing mergers and acquisitions.
Such return of cash to shareholders of nonfinancial corporations rose from $180 billion in 2003 to more than $700 billion in 2006.
Fixed investment, on the other hand, rose only from $748 billion in 2003 to $967 billion in 2006.
A corporation returns equity capital to shareholders when it cannot find opportunities for prospective risk-adjusted rates of return superior to the rate of return that the corporation obtains from existing assets.
Large cash disbursements to shareholders are usually a signal of lowered prospective rates of return on fixed investments available to the corporation,
the likely result of a slowed pace of profitable new applications of innovation.*
Similar signals are reflected in price trends in high-tech equipment,
which had been the driving force in rising overall nonfarm productivity growth between 1998 and 2002.
At the Federal Reserve, we monitored those price trends as one proxy of the rate of growth of productivity in the high-tech equipment sector itself, a significant part of recent overall productivity gains.
Falling prices are generally possible over protracted periods only if unit labor costs are falling in tandem, a trend that is not likely unless productivity is rising fast.
And thus the rate of productivity advance should be reflected, and readily observable, in the rate of decline in price.
Prices of information-processing equipment and software, for example, fell by more
than 4 percent in 2002, but by less than 1 percent at an annual rate by the first quarter of 2007.
Prices of information-processing equipment (and software) have fallen every quarter since 1991.
*The withdrawal of shareholder capital from corporations with less promising investment opportunities for investment in companies with cutting-edge technologies is an important example of the financing of creative destruction.
(未完待续, To be contd)