The "New Economy" is a term used to describe the result of the transition from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based economy. This particular use of the term was popular during the "dot-com bubble" of the late 1990s. The high growth, low inflation and high employment during this period led to overly optimistic predictions and many flawed business plans.
After a nearly sixty-year period of unprecedented growth, the United States experienced a much-discussed economic slowdown beginning in 1972. However, around 1995, U.S. economic growth accelerated, driven by faster productivity growth. From 1972 to 1995, the growth rate of output per hour, a measure of labor productivity, had only averaged around one percent per year. But by the mid 1990s, growth became much faster: 2.65 percent from 1995 to 1999. The U.S. also experienced increased employment and decreasing inflation. The economist Robert J. Gordon referred to this as a "Goldilocks economy," the result of five positive "shocks": The "two traditional shocks (food-energy and imports) and the three new shocks (computers, medical care, and measurement)."
Other economists pointed to the ripening benefits of the computer age, being realized after a delay much like that associated to the delayed benefits of electricity shortly after the turn of the twentieth century.
A 1983 cover story in Time magazine titled "The New Economy" described the transition from heavy industry to a new technology-based economy. By 1997 Newsweek was referring to the "New Economy" in many of its articles.
In 2000, Gordon contended that the benefits of computers were marginal or even negative for the majority of firms, with their benefits being consolidated in the computer hardware and durable goods manufacturing sectors, which only represent a relatively small segment of the economy. His method relied on applying considerably sized gains in the business cycle to explain aggregate productivity growth.
According to another point of view, the “new economy” is a current Kondratiev wave which will end after a 50-year period in the 2040s. Its innovative basis includes Internet, nanotechnologies, telematics and bionics.
In the financial markets, the term has been associated with the "dot-com bubble." This included the emergence of the NASDAQ as a rival to the New York Stock Exchange, a high rate of IPOs, the rise of dot-com stocks over established firms, and the prevalent use of such tools as stock options (Figure 1). In the wider economy the term has been associated with practices such as outsourcing, business process outsourcing and business process re-engineering.
During this time there was also a lot of investment in companies in the technology sector. Stock shares rose dramatically. A lot of start-ups were created and the stock value was very high where floated. Newspapers and business leaders were starting to talk of new business models. Some even claimed that the old laws of economics did not apply anymore and that new laws had taken their place. They also claimed that the improvements in computer hardware and software would dramatically change the future, and that information is the most important value in the New Economy.
Some, such as Joseph Stiglitz and Blake Belding, have suggested that a lot of investment in information technology, especially in software and unused fiber optics, was useless. However, this may be too harsh a judgment, given that U.S. investment in information technology has remained relatively strong since 2002. While there may have been some overinvestment, productivity research shows that much of the investment has been useful in raising output.
The recession of 2001 disproved many of the more extreme predictions made during the boom years, and gave credence to Gordon's minimization of computers' contributions. However, subsequent research strongly suggests that productivity growth has been stimulated by heavy investment in information and communication technology. Furthermore, strong productivity growth after the 2001 recession make it likely that some of the gains of the late 1990s may endure.