Productivity and Costs by Industry: Wholesale Trade, Retail Trade, and Food Services and Drinking Places, 2015 News Release


For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Wednesday, August 10, 2016	                                              USDL-16-1654

Technical Information:  (202) 691-5618  •  productivity@bls.gov  •  www.bls.gov/lpc 
Media Contact:          (202) 691-5902  •  PressOffice@bls.gov



                                  PRODUCTIVITY AND COSTS BY INDUSTRY: WHOLESALE TRADE, 
                          RETAIL TRADE, AND FOOD SERVICES AND DRINKING PLACES INDUSTRIES - 2015

Labor productivity rose 1.6 percent in wholesale trade, 3.0 percent in retail trade, and 1.8 percent in 
food services and drinking places in 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Unit 
labor costs, which reflect the total labor costs required to produce a unit of output, also rose in all three 
industry groups.

For wholesale trade in 2015 - productivity, output, and hours worked all increased at a slower rate than 
in 2014. In retail trade, the growth in output was more than double the growth in hours worked leading 
to a bigger productivity increase in 2015 than in 2014. Productivity growth in food services and drinking 
places in 2015 surpassed that of 2014 as increased output exceeded an increase in hours worked. 

Among the largest industries, productivity growth was greatest in building material and supplies dealers 
where output outpaced a slight increase in hours worked. Productivity fell the most in special food 
services where growth in hours worked outpaced an increase in output.

Trends in Labor Productivity in 2015

Productivity increased in 14 of the 16 3-digit NAICS industries studied in 2015. Four industries had 
productivity gains of at least 4.0 percent. Nonstore retailers, which includes electronic shopping and 
mail-order houses, had the largest increase in output (10.0 percent).

Productivity increased in 33 of the 49 4-digit NAICS industries studied in 2015. Output grew in 42 
industries while hours worked grew in 31 industries. 

In wholesale trade, productivity rose 1.6 percent as output grew 2.5 percent and hours worked increased 
0.9 percent. 
      * Productivity grew 0.3 percent in durable goods wholesalers and 3.3 percent in nondurable goods 
        wholesalers. 
      * Productivity increased in 13 of the 19 4-digit wholesale trade industries while output rose in 16 
        industries and hours worked grew in 13. 
      * Productivity increased most rapidly in miscellaneous nondurable goods and in paper and paper 
        products as output increased and hours worked fell in both industries. 

In retail trade, productivity grew 3.0 percent as output rose 5.0 percent and hours worked rose 2.0 
percent. 
      * Productivity increased in 19 of the 27 4-digit retail trade industries while output grew in 23 
        industries and hours worked rose in 15. 
      * The largest productivity increases were in florists and in book stores and news dealers as output 
        rose and hours worked declined in both industries. 
      * The electronic shopping and mail-order houses industry experienced the largest growth in output 
        (13.3 percent) and recorded a 6.0 percent increase in productivity.

In food services and drinking places, productivity rose 1.8 percent as output grew 5.1 percent and 
hours worked rose 3.2 percent. Output and hours worked rose in all three of the 4-digit industries in this 
industry group while productivity only increased in restaurants and other eating places.

Trends in Unit Labor Costs in 2015

      * When productivity gains outpace hourly compensation, unit labor costs facing employers 
        decline. Unit labor costs fell in 4 out of 16 3-digit industries in 2015. All unit labor cost
        declines occurred in industries where productivity rose. 
      * Unit labor costs declined in 6 of 19 wholesale trade and 13 of 27 retail trade 4-digit industries. 
        All three industries in food services and drinking places saw an increase in unit labor costs.
      * Hourly compensation, defined as labor compensation per hour worked, rose in 40 of the 49
        4-digit industries.

Long-Term Trends in Labor Productivity and Unit Labor Costs

From 1987 to 2015, labor productivity increased at an average annual rate of 2.9 percent in wholesale 
trade, 2.8 percent in retail trade, and 0.4 percent in food services and drinking places. 
      * Among the 4-digit industries, productivity rose in all but three industries from 1987 to 2015. 
        Median productivity growth among these industries was 2.1 percent per year.
      * Over the long term, productivity growth was associated with rising output in 42 out of 49 4-digit 
        industries while hours worked increased in 26 industries.
      * The growth in productivity from 1987 to 2007 far exceeded the growth in productivity from 
        2007 to 2015 in all three industry groups. Productivity increased in 45 out of 49 4-digit industries 
        from 1987 to 2007 compared to 28 industries from 2007 to 2015. 

From 1987 to 2015, unit labor costs increased at an average annual rate of 3.1 percent in food services 
and drinking places, the greatest change within the three industry groups. Unit labor costs increased by 
1.0 percent in wholesale trade and were unchanged in retail trade.
      * Among the 4-digit industries, unit labor costs fell in 14 out of 49 industries from 1987 to 2015. 
        Unit labor costs declined in 2 out of 19 wholesale trade and 12 out of 27 retail trade industries 
        while increasing in all food services and drinking places industries.
      * From 2007 to 2015, unit labor costs declined in 13 out of 49 industries. All industries with 
        declines in unit labor costs experienced increases in productivity.
      * Among the 3-digit industries, electronics and appliance stores had the largest unit labor cost 
        declines and the largest productivity gains during the 1987 to 2007 and 2007 to 2015 periods.

Additional Information

The trade and food services and drinking places measures in this release incorporate benchmark data 
from the Census Bureau’s Annual Wholesale Trade Report (February 2016), Monthly Wholesale Trade 
Survey (May 2016), Annual Retail Trade Survey (March 2016), Annual Revision of the Monthly Retail 
and Food Services: Sales and Inventories (May 2016), and Nonemployer Statistics (May 2016). Data 
have been benchmarked to the final results of the 2012 Economic Census. Accordingly, the labor 
productivity and output series for all industries have been revised for 2014 and earlier years. This news 
release also incorporates the annual benchmark revision of the BLS Current Employment Statistics 
(CES) survey published in February 2016. Additionally, the unit labor cost measures incorporate 
preliminary data from the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (June 2016). 

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                                          Technical Note

Labor Productivity: Labor productivity describes the relationship between real output and the labor 
hours involved in its production. These measures show the changes from period to period in the amount 
of goods and services produced per hour worked. Although the labor productivity measures relate output 
in an industry to hours worked of all persons in that industry, they do not measure the specific 
contribution of labor to growth in output. Rather, they reflect the joint effects of many influences, 
including: changes in technology; capital investment; utilization of capacity, energy, and materials; the 
use of purchased services inputs, including contract employment services; the organization of 
production; the characteristics and effort of the workforce; and managerial skill. 

Unit Labor Costs: Unit labor costs represent the cost of labor required to produce one unit of output. 
The unit labor cost indexes are computed by dividing an index of nominal industry labor compensation 
by an index of real industry output. Unit labor costs also describe the relationship between compensation 
per hour worked (hourly compensation) and real output per hour worked (labor productivity). When 
hourly compensation growth outpaces productivity, unit labor costs increase. Alternatively, when 
productivity growth exceeds hourly compensation, unit labor costs decrease. 

Output: Industry output is measured as an annual-weighted index of the changes in the various products 
(in real terms) provided for sale outside the industry. Real industry output for data in this release is 
derived by deflating nominal sales or values of production using price indexes. Industry output measures 
are constructed primarily using data from the economic censuses and annual surveys of the U.S. Census 
Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce, together with information on price changes from BLS. 

Labor Hours: Labor hours are measured as annual hours worked by all employed persons in an 
industry. Data on industry employment and hours come primarily from the BLS Current Employment 
Statistics (CES) survey and Current Population Survey (CPS). CES data on the number of total and 
production worker jobs held by wage and salary workers in nonfarm establishments are supplemented 
with CPS data on self-employed and unpaid family workers to estimate industry employment. Hours 
worked estimates are derived using CES and CPS employment, CES data on the average weekly hours 
paid of production workers, CPS data on hours of nonproduction, self-employed, and unpaid family 
workers, and ratios of hours worked to hours paid based on data from the National Compensation 
Survey (NCS). For some industries, employment and hours data are supplemented or further 
disaggregated using data from the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), the 
Census Bureau, or other sources. Hours worked are estimated separately for different types of workers 
and then are directly aggregated; no adjustments for labor composition are made.

Labor Compensation: Labor compensation, defined as payroll plus supplemental payments, is a 
measure of the cost to the employer of securing the services of labor. Payroll includes salaries, wages, 
commissions, dismissal pay, bonuses, vacation and sick leave pay, and compensation in kind. 
Supplemental payments include both legally required expenditures and payments for voluntary 
programs. The legally required portion consists primarily of federal old age and survivors’ insurance, 
unemployment compensation, and workers’ compensation. Payments for voluntary programs include all 
programs not specifically required by legislation, such as the employer portion of private health 
insurance and pension plans. Industry compensation measures are constructed primarily using data from 
the BLS QCEW and the economic censuses of the Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce.



Table 1. Recent labor productivity, unit labor costs, and related data
Industry 2012 NAICS code 2015
Employment
(thousands)
Percent change, 2014-2015
Labor productivity Unit labor costs Output Hours worked Labor compensation

Wholesale Trade

Wholesale trade

42

6,015.1 1.6 1.5 2.5 0.9 4.0

Durable goods

423

3,001.6 0.3 2.0 1.4 1.1 3.4

Motor vehicles and parts

4231

336.3 0.8 0.3 3.8 3.0 4.1

Furniture and furnishings

4232

108.7 0.9 3.8 6.3 5.4 10.3

Lumber and construction supplies

4233

213.6 -3.5 2.5 4.9 8.7 7.5

Commercial equipment

4234

626.6 2.2 1.9 1.3 -0.9 3.2

Metals and minerals

4235

129.6 -4.9 3.5 -3.6 1.3 -0.3

Appliances and electric goods

4236

327.4 4.8 -0.8 4.3 -0.5 3.5

Hardware and plumbing

4237

243.6 3.3 1.7 4.2 0.8 5.9

Machinery and supplies

4238

700.8 -5.2 5.5 -2.9 2.5 2.5

Miscellaneous durable goods

4239

315.0 -0.1 5.5 -4.7 -4.6 0.5

Nondurable goods

424

2,104.7 3.3 0.6 3.9 0.5 4.5

Paper and paper products

4241

123.5 7.1 -1.5 3.7 -3.2 2.1

Druggists' goods

4242

199.3 6.9 -1.8 7.7 0.7 5.7

Apparel and piece goods

4243

157.0 -1.4 0.5 2.2 3.7 2.7

Grocery and related products

4244

776.9 -0.2 4.7 1.3 1.5 6.1

Farm product raw materials

4245

77.6 0.7 -0.9 0.9 0.2 0.0

Chemicals

4246

134.0 0.9 -0.9 3.3 2.4 2.3

Petroleum

4247

101.9 1.2 4.9 5.3 4.1 10.5

Alcoholic beverages

4248

189.6 6.1 0.6 3.7 -2.3 4.3

Miscellaneous nondurable goods

4249

344.9 7.4 -4.2 5.3 -2.0 0.9

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

425

908.8 0.6 3.0 2.0 1.4 5.1

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

4251

908.8 0.6 3.0 2.0 1.4 5.1

Retail Trade

Retail trade

44-45

16,507.6 3.0 0.4 5.0 2.0 5.4

Motor vehicle and parts dealers

441

1,999.3 2.4 1.3 6.6 4.1 7.9

Automobile dealers

4411

1,277.8 1.9 1.1 6.9 4.8 8.1

Other motor vehicle dealers

4412

159.7 -3.8 6.2 11.1 15.4 18.0

Auto parts, accessories, and tire stores

4413

561.8 0.7 3.6 0.6 -0.1 4.1

Furniture and home furnishings stores

442

516.7 -1.3 1.7 7.3 8.7 9.1

Furniture stores

4421

238.1 -0.2 0.8 7.8 8.0 8.7

Home furnishings stores

4422

278.6 -2.5 2.7 6.7 9.4 9.6

Electronics and appliance stores

443

544.2 4.9 1.0 9.3 4.2 10.4

Electronics and appliance stores

4431

544.2 4.9 1.0 9.3 4.2 10.4

Building material and garden supply stores

444

1,274.3 5.0 -1.6 5.5 0.5 3.8

Building material and supplies dealers

4441

1,108.5 5.3 -1.8 6.0 0.7 4.1

Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores

4442

165.8 3.1 -0.9 2.4 -0.7 1.5

Food and beverage stores

445

3,163.2 2.7 1.9 2.7 0.0 4.6

Grocery stores

4451

2,742.3 2.0 2.5 2.6 0.6 5.1

Specialty food stores

4452

254.1 6.5 -0.9 2.6 -3.6 1.7

Beer, wine and liquor stores

4453

166.8 8.5 -3.3 4.2 -3.9 0.8

Health and personal care stores

446

1,076.7 0.5 1.8 1.4 0.9 3.2

Health and personal care stores

4461

1,076.7 0.5 1.8 1.4 0.9 3.2

Gasoline stations

447

920.2 -0.1 2.4 4.5 4.6 7.0

Gasoline stations

4471

920.2 -0.1 2.4 4.5 4.6 7.0

Clothing and clothing accessories stores

448

1,451.4 3.3 -1.8 3.1 -0.2 1.2

Clothing stores

4481

1,063.5 4.7 -1.5 4.6 -0.1 3.1

Shoe stores

4482

215.8 -6.1 3.6 0.1 6.6 3.7

Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores

4483

172.1 5.6 -4.1 -2.1 -7.3 -6.1

Sports, hobby, music instruments, book stores

451

698.6 4.7 -1.6 8.2 3.4 6.5

Sporting goods and musical instrument stores

4511

605.6 4.1 -1.3 8.9 4.6 7.4

Book stores and news dealers

4512

93.0 9.1 -3.2 4.6 -4.1 1.3

General merchandise stores

452

3,153.4 1.6 0.3 2.7 1.1 3.1

Department stores

4521

1,329.7 1.2 3.0 -0.5 -1.6 2.5

Other general merchandise stores

4529

1,823.7 0.8 -0.3 3.8 2.9 3.4

Miscellaneous store retailers

453

995.2 0.6 0.3 5.0 4.3 5.3

Florists

4531

84.5 10.0 -10.5 4.4 -5.1 -6.5

Office supplies, stationery and gift stores

4532

302.3 6.4 -2.7 5.6 -0.7 2.8

Used merchandise stores

4533

225.4 -1.8 -3.8 6.4 8.3 2.3

Other miscellaneous store retailers

4539

383.0 -4.0 5.9 4.3 8.6 10.4

Nonstore retailers

454

714.4 9.0 -2.3 10.0 0.9 7.5

Electronic shopping and mail-order houses

4541

424.9 6.0 -1.1 13.3 6.9 12.1

Vending machine operators

4542

45.5 -6.1 23.7 -18.0 -12.6 1.5

Direct selling establishments

4543

244.0 1.9 3.7 -5.2 -6.9 -1.6

Food Services and Drinking Places

Food services and drinking places

722

11,298.4 1.8 3.7 5.1 3.2 9.0

Special food services

7223

799.4 -1.9 12.7 1.2 3.1 14.0

Drinking places, alcoholic beverages

7224

381.7 -1.5 7.6 1.4 3.0 9.2

Restaurants and other eating places

7225

10,117.3 2.4 2.6 5.7 3.3 8.4



Table 2. Long run labor productivity, unit labor costs, and related data
Industry 2012 NAICS code 2015
Employment
(thousands)
Average annual percent change, 1987-2015
Labor productivity Unit labor costs Output Hours worked Labor compensation

Wholesale Trade

Wholesale trade

42

6,015.1 2.9 1.0 3.2 0.3 4.2

Durable goods

423

3,001.6 4.6 -0.6 4.7 0.1 4.0

Motor vehicles and parts

4231

336.3 3.7 0.1 3.4 -0.3 3.5

Furniture and furnishings

4232

108.7 2.0 2.2 1.7 -0.3 3.9

Lumber and construction supplies

4233

213.6 1.1 1.5 1.4 0.4 3.0

Commercial equipment

4234

626.6 12.3 -7.1 12.4 0.1 4.4

Metals and minerals

4235

129.6 -0.4 3.7 -0.2 0.3 3.6

Appliances and electric goods

4236

327.4 8.1 -3.2 7.5 -0.5 4.1

Hardware and plumbing

4237

243.6 1.9 1.8 2.4 0.5 4.2

Machinery and supplies

4238

700.8 1.8 2.2 1.9 0.1 4.1

Miscellaneous durable goods

4239

315.0 1.0 2.7 1.6 0.5 4.3

Nondurable goods

424

2,104.7 1.2 2.9 1.4 0.1 4.3

Paper and paper products

4241

123.5 1.1 2.4 0.3 -0.8 2.8

Druggists' goods

4242

199.3 2.8 3.9 4.0 1.1 8.1

Apparel and piece goods

4243

157.0 2.2 1.3 1.9 -0.3 3.2

Grocery and related products

4244

776.9 1.0 2.7 1.6 0.6 4.3

Farm product raw materials

4245

77.6 1.2 4.2 -0.4 -1.6 3.8

Chemicals

4246

134.0 0.4 3.3 0.8 0.4 4.1

Petroleum

4247

101.9 2.2 2.6 0.8 -1.4 3.5

Alcoholic beverages

4248

189.6 0.2 3.1 1.9 1.8 5.1

Miscellaneous nondurable goods

4249

344.9 0.2 3.2 -0.2 -0.4 3.0

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

425

908.8 1.2 1.3 3.4 2.2 4.7

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

4251

908.8 1.2 1.3 3.4 2.2 4.7

Retail Trade

Retail trade

44-45

16,507.6 2.8 0.0 3.3 0.5 3.3

Motor vehicle and parts dealers

441

1,999.3 2.1 0.7 2.9 0.8 3.7

Automobile dealers

4411

1,277.8 2.2 0.7 3.0 0.8 3.7

Other motor vehicle dealers

4412

159.7 2.5 0.9 3.8 1.2 4.7

Auto parts, accessories, and tire stores

4413

561.8 1.0 1.4 1.8 0.8 3.2

Furniture and home furnishings stores

442

516.7 3.6 -0.8 3.7 0.1 2.8

Furniture stores

4421

238.1 3.2 -0.6 3.2 0.0 2.5

Home furnishings stores

4422

278.6 4.2 -1.1 4.3 0.2 3.1

Electronics and appliance stores

443

544.2 10.9 -7.4 11.9 0.8 3.6

Electronics and appliance stores

4431

544.2 10.9 -7.4 11.9 0.8 3.6

Building material and garden supply stores

444

1,274.3 2.6 0.0 3.2 0.6 3.3

Building material and supplies dealers

4441

1,108.5 2.5 0.2 3.2 0.7 3.4

Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores

4442

165.8 3.4 -0.9 3.3 0.0 2.5

Food and beverage stores

445

3,163.2 0.4 2.5 0.4 0.0 2.9

Grocery stores

4451

2,742.3 0.3 2.7 0.4 0.2 3.1

Specialty food stores

4452

254.1 0.3 2.2 -0.3 -0.6 1.8

Beer, wine and liquor stores

4453

166.8 2.4 0.4 1.3 -1.1 1.7

Health and personal care stores

446

1,076.7 2.1 1.4 3.1 1.0 4.5

Health and personal care stores

4461

1,076.7 2.1 1.4 3.1 1.0 4.5

Gasoline stations

447

920.2 1.4 1.4 1.1 -0.3 2.5

Gasoline stations

4471

920.2 1.4 1.4 1.1 -0.3 2.5

Clothing and clothing accessories stores

448

1,451.4 4.1 -1.2 3.8 -0.3 2.6

Clothing stores

4481

1,063.5 4.6 -1.5 4.3 -0.2 2.8

Shoe stores

4482

215.8 2.6 -0.5 2.5 -0.2 1.9

Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores

4483

172.1 3.4 -0.2 2.7 -0.7 2.6

Sports, hobby, music instruments, book stores

451

698.6 3.6 -0.7 4.2 0.5 3.4

Sporting goods and musical instrument stores

4511

605.6 4.2 -1.2 5.0 0.9 3.8

Book stores and news dealers

4512

93.0 2.0 0.8 1.0 -1.0 1.7

General merchandise stores

452

3,153.4 3.1 -0.8 4.5 1.3 3.6

Department stores

4521

1,329.7 1.0 0.9 0.9 -0.1 1.8

Other general merchandise stores

4529

1,823.7 5.1 -2.2 7.8 2.6 5.4

Miscellaneous store retailers

453

995.2 3.2 -1.0 3.2 0.1 2.3

Florists

4531

84.5 2.5 0.0 0.0 -2.4 0.0

Office supplies, stationery and gift stores

4532

302.3 5.4 -2.6 4.3 -1.0 1.6

Used merchandise stores

4533

225.4 4.5 -2.3 6.2 1.6 3.8

Other miscellaneous store retailers

4539

383.0 0.9 0.4 2.3 1.3 2.7

Nonstore retailers

454

714.4 8.1 -4.1 8.7 0.6 4.3

Electronic shopping and mail-order houses

4541

424.9 9.9 -5.3 14.3 4.0 8.2

Vending machine operators

4542

45.5 -0.1 3.8 -3.1 -3.0 0.6

Direct selling establishments

4543

244.0 2.3 0.5 0.7 -1.6 1.2

Food Services and Drinking Places

Food services and drinking places

722

11,298.4 0.4 3.1 2.1 1.7 5.3

Special food services

7223

799.4 0.9 1.7 2.3 1.3 4.0

Drinking places, alcoholic beverages

7224

381.7 -0.5 3.5 -0.7 -0.2 2.8

Restaurants and other eating places

7225

10,117.3 0.5 3.3 2.3 1.8 5.6

Last Modified Date: August 10, 2016