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Productivity and the Unemployment Rate

Saturday, July 21, 2012 by Slaughter Development

Employee productivity and overall unemployment are certainly related. But a new post highlights some of the finer points of this connection.

The article comes from our friends at, a resource site for people interested in online education. Their post is actually a roundup of viewpoints on employee productivity and unemployment from around the web. They write:

When it comes to productivity, few of us consider the big picture. Being more productive at work means much more than just being able to finish more work in a day or getting your boss to notice your work ethic; it can also have a marked effect on the economy as a whole, especially when considered in relation to unemployment levels. These two markers of economic success (or distress as the case may be) are intertwined in a number of complex ways and the relationship between the two isn’t always as clear cut as we might think.

To put things in perspective, here’s an infographic about current unemployment rates:

In this context, unemployment can directly lead to more productivity. For example, the article argues:

If your employer was making major layoffs, how would you act around the office? If you’re like most people, you’d step up your game, working hard, staying late, and becoming as productive as possible so as to appear more indispensable to the company. In some cases, increased productivity may be the direct result of the threat of unemployment, much as unemployment may be the result of increased productivity

Broadly speaking, this is true. Fear of job loss can inspire people to work harder. But will that increased effort be sustainable? Will they burn themselves out and have take time off to recover? And doesn’t it imply that they weren’t working at 100% in their first place?

In an ideal world, recessions should not have any impact on individual worker productivity. But many people operate in a business environment where actual productivity is not as important as looking busy, putting in face-time, and warming up to the boss.

Is your organization one where productivity fluctuates with fear? Or is it one where people focus on getting things done, not playing politics? Let us know in the comments!

Want to learn more? Register now for the 2012 Productivity Series

6 Responses to “Productivity and the Unemployment Rate”

  1. Patricia Says:

    Great start. Very motivational and srhgiatt to the point. However question may be if higher education is absolutely necessary, or some individuals can be better off with a short course for some skilled trades, for example?

  2. Thomas Doane Says:

    I definitely appreciate the fact that, as a productivity consultant, you had the courage to take this subject on. A depressing statistic for me is that, while corporate profits are at an all time high, 75% of growth along those lines in the past ten years has come from wage depression. I think we’re arriving at a point where, in order to get the economy going again, some aspect of this trend has to be reversed. Consumer debt is already close to maxed out so where will new sources of revenue come from to sustain growth in consumer markets unless people start getting raises or getting plugged into jobs that take advantage of their skills again?

  3. Thomas Doane Says:

    I’m just responding to the cycle of fear & enhanced performance you describe in your post in the above comment. It’s just something that I feel has been pushed too far in many cases that I’ve heard about or experienced.

  4. Robby Slaughter Says:

    Thanks for the comment, Thomas!

    Ultimately one solution to the problem is to move away from “wages” and emphasize *meaningful results.* I’d like to see the world shift away from measuring time (which is easy to devalue.)

  5. Thomas Doane Says:

    Sure. I could see that, I guess. Results-Only-Workplace type-thing. I feel like that only works in workplaces where the creativity quotient is high and the demand for creativity is high. Like for example how would this translate to landscapers or lawn-mowing companies?

  6. Thomas Doane Says:

    I guess you would just pay them for the job, not for the time. That makes sense.

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