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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
May
2020
Jun.
2020
Jul.
2020
Aug.
2020

Employment (in thousands)

Employment, all employees (seasonally adjusted)

5,560.4 5,612.3 (p)5,592.7 (p)5,606.2

Employment, production and nonsupervisory employees (seasonally adjusted)

4,410.6 4,447.9 (p)4,436.5 (p)4,456.6

Unemployment

Unemployment rate

7.9% 7.3% 7.4% 5.9%

Job openings, hires, and separations (in thousands)

Job openings

148 171 (p)214  

Hires

194 187 (p)139  

Separations

160 166 (p)157  

Footnotes
(p) Preliminary

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

Union Membership and Representation

Data series Back
data
2016 2017 2018 2019

Union membership and representation

Members of unions (percent of wage and salary workers)

3.7% 4.5% 4.1% 4.5%

Represented by unions (percent of wage and salary workers)

4.2% 4.9% 4.7% 5.0%

(Source: Current Population Survey)

Dynamic Changes in Employment

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

Dynamic changes in employment (in thousands)

Gross job gains

258 267 255 266

Gross job losses

243 262 265 248

(Source: Business Employment Dynamics)

Employment by Occupation

Data series Employment,
2019

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

459,390

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

857,050

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products

163,750

Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer

232,720

Wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products

62,780

(Source: Occupational Employment 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
May
2020
Jun.
2020
Jul.
2020
Aug.
2020

Average hourly earnings

$32.49 $32.30 (p)$32.44 (p)$32.52

Average weekly hours

38.0 38.2 (p)38.4 (p)38.4

Footnotes
(p) Preliminary

(Source: Current Employment Statistics)

Earnings and Hours of Production and Nonsupervisory Employees

Data series Back
data
May
2020
Jun.
2020
Jul.
2020
Aug.
2020

Average hourly earnings

$26.96 $26.87 (p)$26.90 (p)$27.00

Average weekly hours

37.6 37.9 (p)38.1 (p)38.1

Footnotes
(p) Preliminary

(Source: Current Employment Statistics)

Union Membership and Representation

Data series Back
data
Median weekly earnings
2016 2017 2018 2019

Union membership and representation

Full-time workers

$871 $903 $917 $963

Members of unions

$921 $979 $896 $937

Represented by unions

$905 $986 $917 $944

Nonunion

$868 $899 $917 $964

(Source: Current Population Survey)

Earnings by Occupation

Data series Wages, 2019
Hourly Annual
Median Mean Median Mean

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

$15.27 $16.14 $31,760 $33,560

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

$28.53 $34.35 $59,350 $71,450

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products

$38.41 $44.25 $79,880 $92,030

Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer

$21.45 $22.32 $44,610 $46,430

Wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products

$28.37 $31.17 $59,010 $64,840

(Source: Occupational Employment Statistics)

Employer Compensation Costs

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

12-month percent change

Total compensation

2.0% 1.4% 1.8% 2.9%

Wages and salaries

2.1% 1.3% 1.8% 3.1%

(Source: Compensation Cost Trends)



Data series Back
data
2nd quarter 2020
Compensation component
($ per hour worked)
Percent of total compensation

Compensation costs

Total compensation

38.41 100.0

Wages and salaries

27.09 70.5

Total benefits

11.31 29.5

Insurance

2.96 7.7

Retirement

1.33 3.5

(Source: Compensation Cost Trends)

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 2015 2016 2017 2018

Fatalities

Number of fatalities

175 179 174 203

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

Data series 2018

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

Total recordable cases

2.9

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

1.9

Cases involving days away from work

1.0

Cases involving days of job transfer or restriction

0.9

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
May
2020
Jun.
2020
Jul.
2020
Aug.
2020

Producer price index

(p)144.2 (p)143.5 (p)144.8 (p)146.6

Percent change from previous month

  (p)1.1% (p)-0.5% (p)0.9% (p)1.2%

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
2nd quarter
2019
3rd quarter
2019
4th quarter
2019
1st quarter
2020

Number of establishments

Private industry

614,338 616,358 617,808 (p)616,608

Local government

36 36 36 (p)36

State government

       

Federal government

       

Establishments with changes in employment (in thousands)

With job gains (seasonally adjusted)

105 103 106  

With job losses (seasonally adjusted)

108 108 105  

Footnotes
(p) Preliminary

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

Productivity

Data series Back
data
2016 2017 2018 2019

Labor productivity index, output per hour

108.599 110.002 111.449 111.897

Percent change from previous year

0.7 1.3 1.3 0.4

Labor index, total labor hours

97.363 97.568 98.009 98.567

Percent change from previous year

0.5 0.2 0.5 0.6

Output index

105.735 107.327 109.230 110.293

Percent change from previous year

1.2 1.5 1.8 1.0

Unit labor costs index

113.572 114.790 117.080 119.975

Percent change from previous year

-0.4 1.1 2.0 2.5

(Source: Productivity and Costs)

 

Data extracted on: September 18, 2020