Figures from Statistics New Zealand show worker productivity grew by 2% a year on average between 1978 and 2010.
The range varies wildly, however, across different sectors.
Productivity in the communications sector, which was at the forefront of technological change, rose by 9% a year.
It rose to a lesser extent in agriculture, forestry, fishing and basic utilities.
But there was little productivity growth in manufacturing and retail and wholesale, and it fell in the hospitality sector.
The figures are historic and exclude 2011 figures released last week, which showed low overall productivity levels.