For the last four decades, productivity has grown noticeably slow in rich countries, writes The Economist, and low wages are both a cause and a consequence of it.

As rich countries produce less, stagnant pay is often a result. Labor productivity in America fell at a startling 2.2% annual pace in the fourth quarter of 2015; growth of 0.6% for the year as a whole was better, but hardly impressive.

Chad Syverson of the University of Chicago estimates that the productivity slump has cost America about $2.7 trillion in lost output since 2004, or about $8,400 for every American. That is far more than most estimates of the unmeasured gains from information technology. New research presented at the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, by David Byrne and John Fernald of the Federal Reserve and Marshall Reinsdorf of the IMF suggests there is little reason to think that the official data are worse now than in the late 1990s, when measured productivity growth was much higher. Indeed, the data ought to have improved, since the smartphones and computers that give statisticians such headaches are no longer made in the rich world.

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