Policy | Center for the American Worker

An Economic Productivity Agenda to Boost Workers

Rachel Wallen Oglesby ,  September 29, 2023

Average labor productivity fell during each of the first two years of the Biden Administration—and with it, Americans’ purchasing power.

Such an unprecedented and dismal performance is the worst by a new administration in modern history. Unfortunately, Americans are now working more to produce less.

This problem isn’t American workers’ fault—it’s a failure of policy. During the Trump Administration, productivity rose by nearly 5% before the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to policies that reduced federal regulations, encouraged worker training and upskilling programs, and cut taxes. As a result, the purchasing power of the typical American family increased by more than $5,000. Our country’s workers now need an America First agenda, which promises to advance the productivity and prosperity of the American worker through policies at the state and federal level that:


  • Cut red tape that leads to excessive paperwork and time navigating administrative hurdles
  • Eliminate federal rules that require workplace training that takes workers away from their job duties without improving safety, efficiency, or workplace satisfaction
  • Roll back regulations that strain small business’s resources and force them to hire teams of compliance officers at the expense of hiring workers who advance the company’s mission


  • Recognize out-of-state licenses for all occupations, allowing people who move to different states to continue their careers without needing to jump through cumbersome and expensive hoops
  • Support workers’ ability to negotiate for the work arrangements that best fit their lifestyles and family needs instead of punishing freelancers and people seeking flexible schedules
  • Address housing regulations that drive up construction costs, impede development, and block workers from relocating to accept a job that allows them to reach their full potential


  • Reform high school curricula to include vocational education, dual enrollment options, and other alternative pathways to a career
  • Align career and technical education (CTE) programs with industry needs to address the skills gap
  • Increase higher education transparency and accountability to prioritize student outcomes and end the cycle of runaway student debt
  • Invest in and increase federal recognition of statelevel apprenticeship programs Promote upskilling and reskilling programs that teach workers new, high-demand skills


  • Make the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), including its expensing provisions, permanent
  • Lower tax rates to encourage productivityenhancing investments by businesses and workers
  • Pursue free, fair, and reciprocal trade policies that protect intellectual property and boost R&D

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