Local Employment and Economic Development (LEED Programme)

The Spatial Productivity Lab at the OECD Trento Centre


An explicit focus on subnational drivers of regional productivity is needed to better understand recent productivity dynamics (e.g. growing disparities within countries) and to devise policy solutions that boost aggregate productivity and reduce inequalities

  • What's the issue?

Productivity is the main determinant of living standards. Economies that are more productive generate greater ability to support and enhance wellbeing of their citizens via higher incomes, better infrastructure, more services and improved sustainability of welfare systems. In the last decade, the OECD countries have been confronted with decreasing productivity growth, declining business dynamism and job reallocation rates, and increasing regional productivity disparities. Large cities tend to prosper, while smaller places often feel left behind. Yet, all places have growth potential.

A focus on productivity of places or spatial productivity allows to understand and put to work local and regional engines of growth. This will expand economic opportunities in all places while decreasing inequalities. Knowledge of subnational productivity drivers in different types of places is crucial for building back better and making the post-COVID world more prosperous, resilient and inclusive.

  • What can the OECD offer?
  • To research organisations: Collaboration opportunities to conduct policy-relevant research on drivers of spatial productivity.
  • To governments: Analysis of economic trends and their effects on productivity performance of regions; policy advice on the ways to boost growth and wellbeing.
  • To civil society: Participation on the international dialogue on subnational productivity, growth, spatial inequality and other issues of utmost importance.


Ongoing project

Italy: Trentino Spatial Productivity Review

This three-year project, led by the Spatial Productivity Lab at the OECD Trento Centre for Local Development, aims to carry out analysis on the productivity of the Autonomous Province of Trento in Italy, propose policy measures, offer discussion opportunities among stakeholders and produce an annual report on productivity and competitiveness of the Trentino economy.

Implementation period: 2023-2025


Spatial Productivity Lab papers

Bringing Trentino’s productivity growth back on track
A comparison among "peer" regions
April 2024

The Autonomous Province of Trento (Trentino) is among the most productive regions in Europe, but over the past two decades its productivity growth has stagnated. As a result, the productivity gap of Trentino widened by over 20% compared to regions with the same productivity level in 2000. The benchmarking of productivity drivers in Trentino with those of “peer” regions points to several policy priorities, including: reviving productivity in tradeable sectors, also through increased internationalisation; increasing the share of the labour force with a tertiary education; and getting more out of public R&D while boosting private sector R&D. Available also in Italian


How well do online job postings match national sources in European countries?
Benchmarking Lightcast data against statistical and labour agency sources across regions, sectors and occupation
March 2024

This paper assesses the comparability and validity between Lightcast and other data sources for Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden, for the years 2019 to 2022 across regions, sectors and occupations. It concludes with some recommendations for labour market analysts that want to use data on online job postings for assessing labour demand trends. 

How well do online job postings match national sources in large English speaking countries?
Benchmarking Lightcast data against statistical sources across regions, sectors and occupations
March 2024

This paper presents the first international assessment of the Lightcast vacancy data representativeness based on benchmarking against officially reported vacancy data in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. The analysis compares distributions in the Lightcast data versus official data across large (TL2) regions, industrial sectors and occupational categories. 


How do mass lay-offs affect regional economies?
January 2023

This paper estimates the impact of mass lay-offs between 2008-18 across small regions (TL3) in Europe on regional employment and productivity. Mass lay-offs from firms and plant restructuring occur regularly and can have potentially large consequences on places and communities. Policy makers may consider supporting firms, in order to prevent mass lay-offs but at the risk of interfering with economic dynamism, or targeting affected workers, to help them transition to new employment. 


Policies for resilient local economies
September 2022

This paper reviews the empirical evidence for effective policies from across the OECD to strengthen local economic resilience through support for people, firms and places. There is a strong need for effective policies in times of recessions, natural disasters and long-term structural change. Policies that strengthen economic resilience strongly overlap with policies for local productivity growth and vice-versa. Moreover, some policies aiming to increase resilience through adding redundancy in production or infrastructure can serve productivity in the long-term.

The spatial dimension of productivity in Italian co-operatives
March 2021

This report explores the spatial dimension of productivity in the co-operatives of Italy, a country where they make up a relatively large share of total national employment. Co-operatives play a countercyclical role in job creation during crises. In a post-pandemic world, they could make a major contribution to steering the economy towards inclusiveness and sustainability. Productivity growth ensures that co-operatives can achieve both economic and social goals in the future. This report applies a place-based approach to investigate the issue of productivity in co-operatives, given their many interdependencies with local communities. Available also in Italian

Policy Highlights  


A comprehensive approach to understanding urban productivity effects of local governments
Local autonomy, government quality and fragmentation
January 2021

This paper advances our understanding of the spatial dimension of productivity by investigating the link between subnational governance arrangements and urban labour productivity. It presents a detailed study of the direct and indirect effects of decentralisation (local autonomy), government quality and fragmentation and empirically demonstrates the need for a comprehensive approach when considering the effects of governance-related characteristics on regional economic outcomes. 


Labour demand weakening during the COVID-19 pandemic in US cities
Stylised facts and factors related to regional resilience
October 2020

This paper explores patterns of short-term labour demand weakening in Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) of the United States and the associated regional factors. The paper considers online job vacancy postings in February-June 2020. The data show that in larger MSAs, online job postings contracted more and the recovery was slower compared to smaller MSAs. Non-tradable service occupations, particularly those involving face-to-face interactions, contracted the most. The regression analysis reveals that different metropolitan characteristics were associated with the initial drop (February-April) and the recovery (May-June) in online job posting.

The geography of Swedish SMEs’ investments
Financial constraints across the urban-rural hierarchy in a wealthy country with low regional disparities
October 2020

This paper advances our knowledge of the spatial determinants of productivity by empirically demonstrating one such mechanism – clear differences along the urban-rural continuum in the sensitivity of SMEs’ investments to own cash flow. Whereas the literature has established uneven availability of credit across space, the evidence on whether this translates into differences in actual business investments remains scarce. We answer this question in the context of Sweden – a highly digitalised country with low regional inequalities.


Local ability to rewire and socioeconomic performance
Evidence from US counties before and after the Great Recession
May 2020

The paper examines the effects of three groups of factors (county economic structure, social/demographic attributes and geography) on employment growth and poverty change in US counties before and after the Great Recession. It finds that the industrial structure that facilitates inter-industry employee flows (“rewiring”) is of increasing importance post-Recession. In particular, this measure is associated with employment growth in under-performing counties suggesting that removing barriers to the flow of resources within lagging economies and increasing their adaptability potential might be a viable policy option. 


The spatial dimension of productivity
Connecting the dots across industries, firms and places
January 2020

This working paper offers a synthesis of the current knowledge on the determinants of productivity. It carefully reviews both “spatial” (e.g. agglomerations, infrastructure, geography) and “aspatial” (e.g. human capital, labour regulations, industry-level innovation and dynamism) productivity drivers and demonstrates how the underlying spatial dynamics behind the latter group makes all productivity determinants “spatial” in nature. The paper demonstrates that productivity is inherently a spatial phenomenon and its understanding without a local/regional dimension is incomplete.



Presentation of the report on Bringing Trentino's productivity growth back on track
1 February 2024 | Trento, Italy (in Italian only)

Call for papers: Spatial Productivity Lab special session at ERSA and AISRe 2024
Deadline for paper submission: 28 Feb 2024

Webinar: New approaches to understand business conditions and links between firms
13 November 2023 | DIGITAL

21st SPL meeting: Rebooting regional productivity - From analysis to policy
18 October 2023 | DIGITAL

20th SPL meeting: Skills across jobs - Addressing local labour shortages
20 June 2023 | DIGITAL

Launch event: Trentino Spatial Productivity review, Italy
30 March 2023 | Trento, Italy

Call for papers: Spatial Productivity Lab special sessions at RSA 2023, ERSA 202, A.I.S.Re. 2023
Deadline for paper submission: 28 February 2023

19th SPL meeting: Socioeconomic trends in the host region Trentino-Alto Adige/South Tyrol (Italy)
14 December 2022 | Trento, Italy

18th SPL meeting: Productivity and resilience in regions and cities
6 December 2022 | DIGITAL

Mass layoffs and local impacts: what we know and what can be done
27 September 2022 | DIGITAL

17th SPL meeting: Business dynamism and regional productivity
14 September 2022 | DIGITAL

Spatial Productivity Lab special sessions at GEOINNO 2022, ERSA 2022, A.I.S.Re. 2022 and KLEMS 2022
July-October 2022 | Italy, Hungary, United Kingdom

16th SPL meeting: Regional institutions and productivity - Implications for policy
10 March 2022 | DIGITAL

15th SPL meeting: Recent trends in Trentino and Alto-Adige/South Tyrol (Italy)
14 December 2021 | Trento, Italy

14th SPL meeting: Innovation diffusion: How can regions benefit?
8 September 2021 | DIGITAL

Relaunch of productivity for regional growth and cohesion | ERSA Congress 2021
25-26 August 2021 | DIGITAL

13th SPL meeting: Adoption of advanced technologies - Productivity and labour market implications
11 May 2021 | DIGITAL

Productivity policies for places - OECD/EC Project and workshop series
March-June 2021 | DIGITAL

Workshop: Urban productivity, local government and the levelling up agenda
29 March 2021 | DIGITAL

12th SPL meeting: Spatial productivity in the post-COVID-19 world
4 February 2021 | DIGITAL

11th SPL meeting: Recent socioeconomic trends in Trentino and Alto-Adige/South Tyrol (Italy)
10 December 2020 | DIGITAL 

10th SPL meeting: Business incentives and firm entry - The past, the present and the future
29 October 2020 | DIGITAL 

9th SPL meeting: The new reality of teleworking - People, firms, places
3 September 2020 | DIGITAL 

8th SPL meeting: The world changed by COVID-19 - Policy, economy, society
7 May 2020 | DIGITAL 

7th SPL meeting: Spatial productivity for regional and local development
20 February 2020 | Trento, Italy

5th GeoInno Conference: OECD Spatial Productivity Lab Policy Sessions
30 January 2020 | Stavenger, Norway

6th SPL meeting: Spatial productivity for regional and local development
11 December 2019 | Trento, Italy

5th SPL meeting: Spatial productivity for regional and local development
10 October 2019 | Venice, Italy

OECD Spatial Productivity Lab Special Sessions| ERSA Congress 2019
27-30 August 2019 | Lyon, France

4th SPL meeting: Spatial productivity for regional and local development
17 April 2019 | Trento, Italy

Workshop: Spatial dimensions of productivity
28-29 March 2019 | Bolzano, Italy

3rd SPL meeting: Spatial productivity for regional and local development
7 February 2019 | Trento, Italy

OECD ERSA Winter School: Spatial productivity for regional and local development
21-25 January 2019 | Trento, Italy

2nd SPL meeting: Spatial productivity for regional and local development
4 December 2018 | Trento, Italy

Workshop: Regional productivity catching up - The role of the EU cohesion policies and the OECD perspective 
3 June 2018 | Trento, Italy

Workshop: The determinants of job polarisation - Lessons from the Dutch local labour markets
2 June 2018 | Trento, Italy

Policy panel: Technology & Jobs, a perspective across levels of government
2 June 2018 | Trento, Italy

Key note lecture: Impact of new technologies on jobs and its effect on local economies
2 June 2018 | Trento, Italy

Workshop: Technology and work - The rise of Cultural and Creative Industries
1 June 2018 | Trento, Italy

1st SPL meeting: The contribution of regions to the productivity of nations
21 February 2018 | Trento, Italy


Background readings


OECD Regional Outlook 2023: The Longstanding Geography of Inequalities
October 2023

OECD Regional Outlook 2021: Addressing COVID-19 and moving to net zero greenhouse gas emissions
May 2021

OECD Regional Outlook 2019: Leveraging Megatrends for cities and rural areas
March 2019

Productivity and jobs in a globalised world - (How) Can all regions benefit?
April 2018

Better use of skills in the workplace -  Why it matters for productivity and local jobs
November 2017

What makes cities more productive? Evidence on the role of urban governance from five OECD Countries
February 2017

Does it pay to live in big(ger) cities? The role of agglomeration benefits, local amenities, and costs of living
December 2016

OECD Regional Outlook 2016: Productive regions for inclusive societies
October 2016

OECD Global Forum on Productivity library
November 2015 - Ongoing 




The Network

This activity is implemented in co-operation with national institutions in Italy and in interested OECD countries; as well as with regional authorities of Trentino Alto Adige Sudtirol, other regions in Italy and other OECD countries. The research team includes economists and related researchers detached from OECD and other relevant research centres, universities in Italy and internationally.

The OECD SPL Team 


Interested in partnering with the Spatial Productivity Lab at the OECD Trento Centre? Contact [email protected] and [email protected].  



SPL Partners

‌ School of International Studies - Trento University Ispat ‌ ‌‌ 

Brescia University‌ 
Swedish Entrepreneurship Forum Swank Program in Rural-Urban Policy - Ohio State University  Euricse
Productivity Partnership‌  CEPII
Orkestra Gran Sasso Science Institute‌ 



The Productivity Institute‌