November, 2000, Vol. 123, No. 11
Labor month in review
Productivity growth fastest in United States
The November Review
In the interval since April 1994, when the Review last published an article on employment and unemployment in Mexico, that nation has undergone a significant cycle in its general business condition. Gary Martin’s article updates our earlier article and reinforces the notion that attempting to apply twin definitions of employment in economies that differ significantly can reveal as much about the differences as about anything else. In particular, Martin notes that conventionally-measured employment continued to grow despite a substantial drop in measured output in 1995. He attributes this to the role of the informal sector in Mexico’s economy: growth in employment in very small enterprises, jobs without fringe benefits, and jobs in rural areas provided subsistence for many as jobs in the more formal sector became scarcer.
Rose Rubin, Shelley I. White-Means, and Luojia Mao Daniel take a broad look at income distributions within the group of elderly households and the comparison of their incomes with other households. Their findings suggest that inequality within the group has declined somewhat over the past three decades. These findings should encourage additional research.
Mary Kokoski investigates the potential differences between aggregating the Consumer Price Index using a "plutocratic" aggregation method—the relative levels of total expenditure provide the weights—used in the current index to a "democratic" index in which each household’s expenditure pattern is equally weighted. She suggests that there is little empirical difference between the democratic and plutocratic index values except extreme scenarios of rapid price change among goods that are inelastic in demand.
In 1999, 1.7 percent of all private industry employees received stock options. Executives were about three times as likely to get stock options than were other employees, 4.6 percent versus 1.6 percent, respectively. The share of nonexecutive employees offered stock options ranging from 0.7 percent for those earning less than $35,000 to 12.9 percent for those earning $75,000 and more.
The likelihood that employees received stock options also varied by industry, from 0.2 percent in nondurable manufacturing industries to 5.3 percent in durable manufacturing industries, and by geographic region, from 1.1 percent in the Northeast to 2.1 percent in the West. Read more in "Pilot Survey of the Incidence of Stock Options in Private Industry in 1999," news release USDL 00–290.
Productivity growth fastest in United States
Of 10 industrialized countries, the United States gain in manufacturing labor productivity of 6.2 percent was the highest in 1999. Productivity growth in the United Kingdom was 4.3 percent, while France registered a growth rate of 4.0 percent. Other countries with notable increases in manufacturing output per hour were Japan and Sweden. Productivity in the manufacturing sector rose by 3.1 percent in Japan and 2.9 percent in Sweden.
Partly as a result of the faster productivity growth, the index of unit labor costs in U.S. manufacturing in 1999 edged down to 80.1 percent of an index of competitors’ costs measured in dollars; in 1998, the percentage was 83.5 percent. Additional information is available in "International Comparisons of Manufacturing Productivity and Unit Labor Cost Trends, 1999," news release USDL 00–295.
Workers in the highest paid occupation earned on average more than three times as much per hour as those in the lowest paid in 1998. Mean hourly earnings of workers in executive, administrative, and managerial positions were $28.63 in 1998, compared with $7.85 for those in service occupations.
The second highest paid occupation in 1998 was professional specialty and technical, with an average of $23.63 per hour. The second lowest was handlers, equipment cleaners, helpers, and laborers, with mean hourly earnings of $9.52. In the remaining occupations, hourly earnings averaged between $10 and $20. Learn more in National Compensation Survey: Occupational Wages in the United States, 1998, BLS Bulletin 2529.
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