profitless prosperity
n. A form of economic growth in which businesses make little or no profit.
"While it is clear that the US economy is recovering, there is a real danger that this could all be a profitless prosperity — in other words, with the economy moving, but no one really making money on it," says Larry Wachtel, a market commentator for investment house Prudential Securities.

Without question, "profitless prosperity" — a new buzzword on Wall Street — would quickly curb the grazing territory of the baby bull.
—Guy Halverson, “Git along, little dogie!,” The Christian Science Monitor, April 08, 2002
1973 (earliest)
W. H. Krome George, president of the Aluminum Association and of the Aluminum Company of America, told yesterday's opening session of a two-day annual meeting of the group that the industry had entered a period of "profitless prosperity."
—Gene Smith, “The Aluminum Industry Is Said to Suffer From Price Controls,” The New York Times, October 25, 1973
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