One of the problems with labour productivity is that a fair proportion of the population just doesn't seem to understand what it is.
And that includes many of Australia's chief executive officers (CEOs), if a survey released by the Australian Industry Group on Friday is any guide.
Productivity is how much output - numbers of haircuts, tonnes of steel or square metres of housing - can be produced with a given quantity of labour.
That output is measured in real terms, than is, adjusted for price changes.
The labour input is usually measured in hours worked, adjusted for the skill of the workers involved.
But productivity is not the same as another key measure, unit labour costs - the dollar cost of producing a given unit of output.
Unit labour costs are determined by both labour productivity and by hourly wage rates.
Nor is it the same as profitability, although unit labour costs are obviously a major influence on how much profit a business can make.
Rising wage rates will increase unit labour costs and erode profitability, but have no direct impact on productivity because productivity is not measured in dollars.
So the responses to the AiGroup's survey of CEOs are more than a bit puzzling.
In the mining sector, 14 per cent of CEOs said labour productivity had fallen in 2012.
Of those, 57 per cent said the main reason was increased labour costs.
In manufacturing, 17 per cent reported falling labour productivity last year and 47 per cent of those pointed the finger at higher labour costs at the culprit.
In services, 12 per cent reported lower labour productivity, with 27 per cent of them blaming higher labour costs.
So it seems somewhere between a quarter and a half of CEOs whose businesses suffer a fall in productivity link the fall mainly to higher wages.
But how would higher wages depress productivity?
Faced with higher wages, an employer might normally be expected to search harder for increased output to compensate - by retrenching less productive workers, coaxing more work out of those remaining or switching to less labour-intensive work processes.
In other words, the normal response to higher wages is to work harder to increase productivity.
One possibility is that higher wages are flowing through into lower competitiveness and lower sales.
At least in the short term, that can mean output falls faster than staffing levels.
This is in fact what happened across the whole economy in late 2008 and early 2009 as the financial crisis crimped business sales and constricted output as a result.
As output fell faster than staffing levels, labour productivity fell.
But this survey relates to 2012, when output and labour productivity grew unusually strongly on an economy-wide basis, bouncing back vigorously from the earlier cyclical slump.
The obvious explanation is that many CEOs, busy trying to run businesses, are not really very focused on the nuances of economic terminology.
AiGroup chief economist Julie Toth agrees.
"Some of the responses indicated there's still some confusion about what we mean by labour productivity", she said.
Ms Toth, who in earlier times worked at the Productivity Commission, said productivity was often confused with unit labour costs.
For businesses, it's all about costs, she said.
"They're not all that interested in productivity as a statistical measure."