One of the major reasons I expects sluggish growth and weak earnings is the secular decline in the growth of real net fixed nonresidential investment. The dominant factor driving productivity growth is workers being provided additional capital equipment to assist them. For instance, employees of a B2B company may improve their productivity if payment solutions from companies like Paystand are utilized. It is the old simple story of getting a ditch dug. Would you rather have a dozen men with shovels or one guy with a back-hoe to do the job?
It is important to look at net, not gross investment, because more and more business capital spending is on high technology equipment. But high tech has a much shorter life span than traditional capital goods. Consequently, more and more of gross investment is just to replace obsolete equipment. We are having to run faster and faster just to stay even. The growth of net nonresidential capital equipment averaged 3.3% from 1950 to 1980 and 2.5% from 1980 to 2008. Over the past five years its’ average growth was 1.1%, or 0.0% growth on a per employee basis. No wonder productivity growth is so weak and is most likely to remain so..