Production Technology, Market Power, and the Decline of the Labor Share


Agustin Velasquez

Publication Date:

February 10, 2023

Electronic Access:

Free Download. Use the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to view this PDF file

Disclaimer: IMF Working Papers describe research in progress by the author(s) and are published to elicit comments and to encourage debate. The views expressed in IMF Working Papers are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF, its Executive Board, or IMF management.


The labor share has been declining in the United States, and especially so in manufacturing. This paper investigates the role of capital accumulation and market power in explaining this decline. I first estimate the production function of 21 manufacturing sectors along time series and including time-varying markups. The elasticities of substitution for most sectors are estimated below one, implying that capital deepening cannot explain the labor share decline. I then track the long-run evolution of the labor share using the estimated production technology parameters. I decompose aggregate labor share changes into sector re-weights, capital-labor substitution, and market power effects. I find that the increase in market power, as reported in recent studies, can account for, at least, 76 percent of the labor share decline in manufacturing. Absent the rise in market power, the labor share would have remained constant in the second half of the 20th century.


Working Paper No. 2023/032




Publication Date:

February 10, 2023



Stock No:




Please address any questions about this title to