The above graph shows productivity for selected Eurozone countries since 2000. The y-axis units are euros/hr worked and the data has been adjusted for inflation and seasonality. A few observations:
- As you would expect, the PIIGS countries are generally less economically productive than their northern European brethren.
- Greek productivity data are not available for some reason...
- Germany is not the most productive country - France, Holland, and Ireland are all higher. However, it would not surprise me to find that this is an average of West German productivity that is comparable to those countries, and East German productivity that has been recovering from a much lower level.
- The Irish are now very productive and this has risen sharply since the 2008 financial crisis.
- Productivity generally increases over time (as one would expect with further technological advance).
- Italy is a notable exception to the trend of improving productivity - it was higher a decade ago than now. Hence the concern at the high debt level of the country - output is not growing enough to cover the interest on the debt.
Here are the same data expressed as percentage change over the same quarter in the prior year:
It's noticeable that productivity growth has been slowing in 2011, just as it did in the lead-in to the 2008 recession.
Update 12/19/11: Looks like part of the increase in Irish productivity may be due to compositional effects (basically layoffs in the great recession may have been concentrated in more cyclical parts of the economy with lower productivity - as opposed to it all being due to individual sectors becoming more productive). See Krugman here.