Unemployment has dropped dramatically over the past several years. But the larger workforce “barely seems to be registering in economic output,” according to the New York Times.

Why? As always, there are cup-half-empty and cup-half-full explanations.

Cup-half-empty: When the Great Recession hit, employers laid off their least productive employees. Now that hiring is back on the uptick, those less-productive employees are re-entering the workforce.

Cup-half-full: The improving economy means lots of new companies, new projects, new teams. They’re all busy forming, storming and norming–but the productivity numbers won’t improve until they start performing.

Which theory is true? Impossible to say. Let’s hope for the “Happy Scenario”: “Slow productivity growth now is just a down payment on a much brighter future.”

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