LONDON, March 5 British finance and transport
firms have struggled with particularly weak productivity since
2007, an official study showed on Wednesday, but it gave no
details on why the problem was so acute in these sectors.
Productivity has been a major concern in Britain since the
financial crisis and last year's economic recovery has not
boosted workers' efficiency as much as the Bank of England
expected - potentially weighing on how much Britons can earn in
the long term.
Service businesses account for more than three quarters of
British output, and 79 percent of total hours worked.
"Estimates of productivity in the services industry ...
suggest that recent weakness is accounted for by several
specific sub-industries - including finance and insurance,
accommodation and food, and transport and storage services," the
report from the Office for National Statistics said.
An ONS official said it was not clear why productivity was
poor in those particular services.
But the report showed productivity has returned to
pre-downturn trend rates in other types of services.
Many economists say low productivity is partly explained by
lower-than-expected job losses during the recession that
followed the financial crisis.
A business survey on Wednesday showed British companies
hired staff at the fastest pace in at least 16 years last month.
Finance minister George Osborne said last month productivity
growth was disappointing, and put most of the blame on the
slowness of a recovery in bank lending after the 2008 financial
Data on Monday showed lending to businesses declined again
in January, and many small and medium-sized firms still complain
of a lack of access to funding to pay for the investment that
can make workers more productive.
An analysis from the ONS in January showed that while
Britain enjoyed the strongest productivity growth among Group of
Seven economies between 1991 and 2007, its performance was the
weakest between 2007 and 2012.
Bank of England policymaker Ben Broadbent said last week
that although there are grounds for optimism about an
improvement in productivity, it may not approach U.S. levels
even if international headwinds recede.
(Reporting by Andy Bruce; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)