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Industries at a Glance
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Wholesale Trade: NAICS 42

About the Wholesale Trade sector

The wholesale trade sector is part of the trade, transportation, and utilities supersector.

The Wholesale Trade sector comprises establishments engaged in wholesaling merchandise, generally without transformation, and rendering services incidental to the sale of merchandise. The merchandise described in this sector includes the outputs of agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and certain information industries, such as publishing.

The wholesaling process is an intermediate step in the distribution of merchandise. Wholesalers are organized to sell or arrange the purchase or sale of (a) goods for resale (i.e., goods sold to other wholesalers or retailers), (b) capital or durable nonconsumer goods, and (c) raw and intermediate materials and supplies used in production.

Wholesalers sell merchandise to other businesses and normally operate from a warehouse or office. These warehouses and offices are characterized by having little or no display of merchandise. In addition, neither the design nor the location of the premises is intended to solicit walk-in traffic. Wholesalers do not normally use advertising directed to the general public. Customers are generally reached initially via telephone, in-person marketing, or by specialized advertising that may include Internet and other electronic means. Follow-up orders are either vendor-initiated or client-initiated, generally based on previous sales, and typically exhibit strong ties between sellers and buyers. In fact, transactions are often conducted between wholesalers and clients that have long-standing business relationships.

North American Industry Classification System

The wholesale trade sector consists of these subsectors:

Workforce Statistics

This section provides information relating to employment and unemployment in wholesale trade. While most data are obtained from employer or establishment surveys, information on industry unemployment comes from a national survey of households. The following tables present an overview of the industry including the number of jobs, the unemployment rate of those previously employed in the industry, job openings and labor turnover, union membership and representation, gross job gains and losses, data for occupations common to the industry, and projections of occupational employment change.

Employment, Unemployment, and Openings, Hires, and Separations

Data series Back
data
Jan.
2021
Feb.
2021
Mar.
2021
Apr.
2021

Employment (in thousands)

Employment, all employees (seasonally adjusted)

5,631.4 5,639.1 (p)5,659.7 (p)5,667.5

Employment, production and nonsupervisory employees (seasonally adjusted)

4,475.4 4,479.7 (p)4,503.0 (p)4,495.9

Unemployment

Unemployment rate

4.4% 7.1% 5.9% 3.3%

Job openings, hires, and separations (in thousands)

Job openings

204 221 (p)249  

Hires

161 121 (p)159  

Separations

152 118 (p)142  

Footnotes
(p) Preliminary

(Source: Current Employment Statistics, Current Population Survey, Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey)

Union Membership and Representation

Data series Back
data
2017 2018 2019 2020

Union membership and representation

Members of unions (percent of wage and salary workers)

4.5% 4.1% 4.5% 4.3%

Represented by unions (percent of wage and salary workers)

4.9% 4.7% 5.0% 4.7%

(Source: Current Population Survey)

Dynamic Changes in Employment

Data series Back
data
4th quarter
2019
1st quarter
2020
2nd quarter
2020
3rd quarter
2020

Dynamic changes in employment (in thousands)

Gross job gains

267 250 202 317

Gross job losses

249 258 607 268

(Source: Business Employment Dynamics)

Employment by Occupation

Data series Employment,
2020

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

428,570

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products

822,420

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products

153,740

Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer

224,500

Wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products

61,070

(Source: Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics)

Projections

For projected (future) employment estimates, see the National Employment Matrix, which includes employment estimates by industry and occupation for wholesale trade.

(Source: Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections)

Earnings and Hours

This section presents data on employee earnings and weekly hours. The latest industry averages of hourly earnings and weekly hours, as well as weekly earnings by union membership status, are shown. In addition, recent hourly and annual earnings are shown for occupations commonly found in wholesale trade. This section also contains information on the average cost of benefits paid by employers, as well as recent rates of change in wages and total compensation.

Earnings and Hours of All Employees

Data series Back
data
Jan.
2021
Feb.
2021
Mar.
2021
Apr.
2021

Average hourly earnings

$32.97 $33.09 (p)$33.19 (p)$33.34

Average weekly hours

39.1 38.7 (p)39.1 (p)39.1

Footnotes
(p) Preliminary

(Source: Current Employment Statistics)

Earnings and Hours of Production and Nonsupervisory Employees

Data series Back
data
Jan.
2021
Feb.
2021
Mar.
2021
Apr.
2021

Average hourly earnings

$27.25 $27.30 (p)$27.35 (p)$27.40

Average weekly hours

38.9 38.5 (p)38.9 (p)39.0

Footnotes
(p) Preliminary

(Source: Current Employment Statistics)

Earnings by Occupation

Data series Wages, 2020
Hourly Annual
Median Mean Median Mean

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

$15.93 $16.87 $33,140 $35,080

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products

$29.50 $35.53 $61,370 $73,900

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products

$40.55 $46.67 $84,340 $97,080

Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer

$22.31 $23.18 $46,400 $48,210

Wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products

$29.09 $32.14 $60,510 $66,850

(Source: Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics)

Employee Benefits

This section presents data on the incidence (the percentage of workers with access to and participation in employer-provided benefit plans) and provisions of selected employee benefits from the National Compensation Survey. More Benefits estimates are also accessible from the Benefits database, the archived NCS publications page, and the complete Employee Benefits Excel dataset (XLSX).

Data series Access Participation
Back
data
2020 Back
data
2020

Private industry

Retirement benefit plans

80 65

Defined benefit plans

9 6

Defined contribution plans

79 62

(Source: Employee Benefits in the United States)

Data series After 1 year of service After 20 years of service
Back
data
2020 Back
data
2020

Mean number of vacation days for private industry workers without consolidated leave plans

8 17

(Source: Employee Benefits in the United States)

Data series Back
data
2020

Percent of private industry workers with access to employer-sponsored benefits

Health care

87

Paid vacation

93

Paid sick leave

87

(Source: Employee Benefits in the United States)

Employer Compensation Costs

Data series Back
data
2nd quarter
2020
3rd quarter
2020
4th quarter
2020
1st quarter
2021

Private industry

12-month percent change

Total compensation

2.9% 2.4% 2.4% 2.4%

Wages and salaries

3.1% 2.4% 2.4% 2.3%

3-month percent change

Total compensation

0.8% 0.2% 0.1% 1.3%

Wages and salaries

0.7% 0.2% -0.1% 1.4%

(Source: Compensation Cost Trends)

Data series Private industry
Compensation component
($ per hour worked)
Percent of total compensation
Back
data
4th quarter 2020 Back
data
4th quarter 2020

Total compensation

41.21 100.0

Wages and salaries

29.18 70.8

Total benefits

12.02 29.2

Insurance

2.97 7.2

Retirement

1.32 3.2

Paid leave

3.19 7.8

(Source: Compensation Cost Trends)

Union Membership and Representation

Data series Back
data
Median weekly earnings
2017 2018 2019 2020

Union membership and representation

Full-time workers

$903 $917 $963 $980

Members of unions

$979 $896 $937 $1,116

Represented by unions

$986 $917 $944 $1,062

Nonunion

$899 $917 $964 $973

(Source: Current Population Survey)

Work-related Fatalities, Injuries, and Illnesses

This section presents data for the industry on the number of workplace fatalities and the rates of workplace injuries and illnesses per 100 full-time workers in wholesale trade. An injury or illness is considered to be work-related if an event or exposure in the work environment either caused or contributed to the resulting condition or significantly aggravated a pre-existing condition.

Data series 2016 2017 2018 2019

Fatalities

Number of fatalities

179 174 203 178

Blank cells indicate no data reported or data that do not meet publication criteria.

Data series 2019

Rate of injury and illness cases per 100 full-time workers

Total recordable cases

2.7

Cases involving days away from work, job restriction, or transfer

1.8

Cases involving days away from work

1.0

Cases involving days of job transfer or restriction

0.8

Blank cells indicate no data reported or data that do not meet publication criteria.

(Source: Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities)

Prices

This section provides industry-specific pricing information. The producer price index measures the percentage change in prices that domestic producers receive for goods and services. The prices included in the producer price index are from the first commercial transaction.

Data series Back
data
Jan.
2021
Feb.
2021
Mar.
2021
Apr.
2021

Producer price index

(p)149.3 (p)150.7 (p)152.1 (p)151.1

Percent change from previous month

  (p)0.3% (p)0.9% (p)0.9% (p)-0.7%

Footnotes
(p) Preliminary

(Source: Producer Price Indexes)

Workplace Trends

This section presents data on the number of establishments and the number of establishments experiencing job gains or job losses in wholesale trade. Also included in this section is information on productivity, presented as the rate of change in output per hour of workers in the industry.

Establishments

Data series Back
data
4th quarter
2019
1st quarter
2020
2nd quarter
2020
3rd quarter
2020

Number of establishments

Private industry

617,808 (p)613,399 (p)614,132 (p)617,517

Local government

36 (p)36 (p)36 (p)36

State government

       

Federal government

       

Establishments with changes in employment (in thousands)

With job gains (seasonally adjusted)

107 100 79 114

With job losses (seasonally adjusted)

105 108 160 105

Footnotes
(p) Preliminary

(Source: Business Employment Dynamics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages)

Productivity

Data series Back
data
2017 2018 2019 2020

Labor productivity index, output per hour

110.001 111.448 112.306  

Percent change from previous year

1.3 1.3 0.8  

Labor index, total labor hours

97.569 98.009 98.208 92.285

Percent change from previous year

0.2 0.5 0.2 -6.0

Output index

107.327 109.230 110.293  

Percent change from previous year

1.5 1.8 1.0  

Unit labor costs index

114.790 117.081 119.985  

Percent change from previous year

1.1 2.0 2.5  

(Source: Productivity and Costs)

 

Data extracted on: May 13, 2021