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

For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Thursday, July 19, 2018                                                 USDL-18-1181

Technical Information:  (202) 691-5606  •  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 - 2017

						  
Labor productivity rose 2.7 percent in wholesale trade and 2.8 percent in retail trade, and declined by 
2.2 percent in food services and drinking places in 2017, 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, rose 
in food services and drinking places and fell in wholesale trade and retail trade.

For wholesale trade in 2017, productivity, output, and hours worked all increased at a faster rate than 
in 2016. In retail trade, the growth in output continued to outpace the growth in hours worked in 2017 
but led to a smaller productivity increase than in 2016. Productivity in food services and drinking 
places declined in 2017 due to hours worked increasing at a faster rate than output. In 2016, 
productivity increased in this industry group as a result of output growing at a faster rate than hours 
worked.

Labor Productivity Rose in Majority of Industries in 2017

Productivity increased in 12 of the 16 3-digit NAICS industries studied in 2017. Seven industries had 
productivity gains of at least 4.0 percent, including nonstore retailers which also had the largest 
increase in output (10.6 percent). Among the three industries with productivity declines, gasoline 
stations experienced the largest drop (-3.2 percent). 

Productivity increased in 32 of the 49 4-digit NAICS industries studied in 2017. Output grew in 34 
industries while hours worked grew in 31 industries.

In wholesale trade, productivity rose 2.7 percent as output grew 3.7 percent and hours worked 
increased 0.9 percent. 
      * Productivity grew 5.1 percent in durable goods wholesalers and 1.1 percent in nondurable 
        goods wholesalers. 
      * Productivity increased in 13 of the 19 4-digit wholesale trade industries while output rose 
        in 15 industries and hours worked grew in 13. 
      * Productivity increased most rapidly in motor vehicles and parts due to rapid growth in output 
        and a slight increase in hours worked. 

In retail trade, productivity increased by 2.8 percent, driven by growth in both output (3.9 percent) 
and hours worked (1.0 percent).
      * Productivity increased in 18 of the 27 4-digit retail trade industries while output grew in 
        17 industries and hours worked rose in 15. 
      * The largest productivity increases occurred in other motor vehicle dealers and in home 
        furnishings stores as output rose and hours worked declined in both industries. 
      * Other motor vehicle dealers experienced the largest growth in output (17.2 percent) resulting 
        in a 17.3 percent increase in productivity.

In food services and drinking places, productivity declined by 2.2 percent as growth in hours worked 
(2.7 percent) outpaced growth in output (0.5 percent). 
      * Drinking places (alcoholic beverages) was the only industry out of the three to experience 
        productivity growth (6.5 percent). 
      * All three 4-digit industries had increases in hours worked while special food services was 
        the only industry to have a decline in output. 

Unit Labor Costs Decline in About Half of the Industries in 2017

When productivity gains outpace hourly compensation, unit labor costs decline. 
      * Unit labor costs fell in 8 out of 16 3-digit industries in 2017. All unit labor cost declines 
        occurred in industries where productivity rose. 
      * Unit labor costs declined in 8 of 19 wholesale trade and 14 of 27 retail trade 4-digit 
        industries. Two of the food services and drinking places industries experienced an increase in 
        unit labor costs.
      * Hourly compensation, defined as labor compensation per hour worked, rose in 42 of the 49 
        4-digit industries.

Long-term Productivity Slowdown Reflected in All Three Industry Groups

From 1987 to 2017, labor productivity increased at an average annual rate of 2.8 percent in wholesale 
trade, 2.9 percent in retail trade, and 0.4 percent in food services and drinking places. 
      * Among the 4-digit industries, productivity rose in all but two industries from 1987 to 2017. 
        Median productivity among these industries grew at an average annual rate of 1.8 percent.
      * Of the 47 4-digit industries with increasing productivity growth, 43 experienced rising output 
        while 23 had an increase in hours worked.
      * All three industry groups experienced a slowdown in productivity growth from 2007 to 2017. 
        Productivity increased in 45 out of 49 4-digit industries from 1987 to 2007 compared to 33 
        industries from 2007 to 2017. 
 
From 1987 to 2017, unit labor costs increased at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent in food services 
and drinking places, the greatest change among the three industry groups. Unit labor costs increased by 
0.9 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 2017. 
        Unit labor costs declined in 2 out of 19 wholesale trade and in 12 out of 27 retail trade 
        industries and increased in all food services and drinking places industries.
      * From 2007 to 2017, unit labor costs declined in 15 out of 49 industries. All industries with 
        declines in unit labor costs experienced increases in productivity.
      * During the 1987 to 2007 and 2007 to 2017 periods, electronics and appliance stores had the largest 
        unit labor cost declines and the largest productivity gains among the 3-digit industries.

Additional Information

The trade and food services and drinking places measures in this release incorporate benchmark data from 
the Census Bureau’s Service Annual Survey (November 2017), Annual Wholesale Trade Report (March 2018), 
Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey (May 2018), Annual Retail Trade Survey (March 2018), Annual Revision of 
the Monthly Retail and Food Services: Sales and Inventories (May 2018), and Nonemployer Statistics (June 
2018). 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 2016 and earlier years. 
Additionally, the unit labor cost measures incorporate preliminary data from the BLS Quarterly Census of 
Employment and Wages (June 2018). 


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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 2017
Employment
(thousands)
Percent change, 2016-2017
Labor productivity Unit labor costs Output Hours worked Labor compensation

Wholesale Trade

Wholesale trade

42

6,039.5 2.7 -0.9 3.7 0.9 2.7

Merchant wholesalers, durable goods

423

3,034.4 5.1 -3.0 6.3 1.1 3.1

Motor vehicles and parts

4231

347.3 7.9 -4.8 8.9 0.9 3.7

Furniture and furnishings

4232

111.7 -0.9 2.4 -1.1 -0.2 1.2

Lumber and construction supplies

4233

233.0 0.2 4.6 4.8 4.6 9.6

Commercial equipment

4234

630.4 5.4 -2.5 5.1 -0.3 2.5

Metals and minerals

4235

125.4 4.8 -1.9 4.3 -0.5 2.3

Appliances and electric goods

4236

336.1 5.5 -4.9 7.6 2.1 2.4

Hardware and plumbing

4237

257.2 -2.2 5.8 1.1 3.3 6.9

Machinery and supplies

4238

672.0 5.7 -4.3 6.3 0.6 1.7

Miscellaneous durable goods

4239

321.3 4.3 -3.6 5.5 1.1 1.7

Merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods

424

2,103.9 1.1 1.8 0.6 -0.5 2.4

Paper and paper products

4241

121.2 -4.1 1.9 -1.8 2.5 0.1

Druggists' goods

4242

203.1 2.0 0.6 0.5 -1.4 1.1

Apparel and piece goods

4243

153.7 -2.1 6.9 -5.3 -3.3 1.2

Grocery and related products

4244

784.0 -0.1 2.4 1.2 1.3 3.7

Farm product raw materials

4245

74.5 -1.9 5.8 -0.5 1.4 5.3

Chemicals

4246

132.2 1.4 2.5 2.1 0.7 4.6

Petroleum

4247

98.2 1.0 3.3 1.5 0.5 4.9

Alcoholic beverages

4248

199.8 0.9 0.1 1.7 0.8 1.9

Miscellaneous nondurable goods

4249

337.2 6.4 -0.7 0.6 -5.5 -0.1

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

425

901.2 0.1 -1.7 4.0 3.9 2.3

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

4251

901.2 0.1 -1.7 4.0 3.9 2.3

Retail Trade

Retail trade

44-45

16,702.7 2.8 -0.9 3.9 1.0 3.0

Motor vehicle and parts dealers

441

2,066.3 4.8 -3.2 5.6 0.7 2.2

Automobile dealers

4411

1,330.1 4.5 -3.5 5.3 0.8 1.7

Other motor vehicle dealers

4412

161.6 17.3 -10.4 17.2 -0.1 5.0

Auto parts, accessories, and tire stores

4413

574.6 -1.6 4.2 -0.9 0.7 3.3

Furniture and home furnishings stores

442

515.0 9.7 -4.3 7.5 -2.0 2.9

Furniture stores

4421

237.4 5.0 -2.4 4.1 -0.9 1.6

Home furnishings stores

4422

277.6 15.1 -6.4 11.4 -3.2 4.3

Electronics and appliance stores

443

520.3 9.0 -4.7 3.5 -5.1 -1.4

Electronics and appliance stores

4431

520.3 9.0 -4.7 3.5 -5.1 -1.4

Building material and garden supply stores

444

1,317.7 5.3 -4.1 7.3 1.9 2.9

Building material and supplies dealers

4441

1,145.7 4.1 -3.4 6.3 2.2 2.7

Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores

4442

172.0 13.6 -8.2 14.2 0.6 4.8

Food and beverage stores

445

3,185.0 0.2 0.5 2.1 1.9 2.6

Grocery stores

4451

2,762.4 -0.3 1.2 1.9 2.2 3.1

Specialty food stores

4452

248.8 5.6 -7.8 7.2 1.4 -1.2

Beer, wine and liquor stores

4453

173.8 4.4 -2.7 2.7 -1.7 -0.1

Health and personal care stores

446

1,115.6 -2.2 3.0 -0.2 2.1 2.8

Health and personal care stores

4461

1,115.6 -2.2 3.0 -0.2 2.1 2.8

Gasoline stations

447

940.0 -3.2 7.3 -2.2 1.0 4.9

Gasoline stations

4471

940.0 -3.2 7.3 -2.2 1.0 4.9

Clothing and clothing accessories stores

448

1,482.7 0.0 1.8 1.4 1.3 3.2

Clothing stores

4481

1,097.2 -2.3 2.9 1.4 3.8 4.3

Shoe stores

4482

217.3 8.5 0.4 -1.0 -8.7 -0.5

Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores

4483

168.2 1.4 -1.8 3.6 2.2 1.8

Sports, hobby, music instruments, book stores

451

664.3 1.2 0.0 -0.9 -2.2 -0.9

Sporting goods and musical instrument stores

4511

573.5 1.9 -0.1 -0.6 -2.5 -0.7

Book stores and news dealers

4512

90.8 -3.1 0.6 -2.8 0.3 -2.2

General merchandise stores

452

3,149.1 0.2 -1.2 2.8 2.6 1.5

Department stores

4521

1,194.8 2.3 -5.5 -0.2 -2.5 -5.7

Other general merchandise stores

4529

1,954.3 -1.7 2.0 3.7 5.5 5.8

Miscellaneous store retailers

453

976.4 6.0 -0.9 2.2 -3.6 1.3

Florists

4531

75.6 7.7 2.2 4.2 -3.3 6.5

Office supplies, stationery and gift stores

4532

274.6 4.9 3.9 -4.8 -9.2 -1.1

Used merchandise stores

4533

226.7 12.8 -7.9 12.1 -0.7 3.2

Other miscellaneous store retailers

4539

399.5 4.4 -1.2 2.5 -1.8 1.3

Nonstore retailers

454

770.3 6.1 1.5 10.6 4.2 12.3

Electronic shopping and mail-order houses

4541

468.7 7.1 3.3 12.5 5.1 16.2

Vending machine operators

4542

46.6 -12.4 15.1 -0.9 13.2 14.0

Direct selling establishments

4543

255.0 -2.8 3.4 -2.0 0.8 1.3

Food Services and Drinking Places

Food services and drinking places

722

11,961.0 -2.2 5.7 0.5 2.7 6.2

Special food services

7223

844.4 -9.2 12.6 -3.7 6.1 8.4

Drinking places, alcoholic beverages

7224

408.0 6.5 -6.7 14.0 7.0 6.4

Restaurants and other eating places

7225

10,708.6 -1.9 5.6 0.3 2.3 5.9






Table 2. Long run labor productivity, unit labor costs, and related data
Industry 2012 NAICS code 2017
Employment
(thousands)
Average annual percent change, 1987-2017
Labor productivity Unit labor costs Output Hours worked Labor compensation

Wholesale Trade

Wholesale trade

42

6,039.5 2.8 0.9 3.2 0.4 4.1

Merchant wholesalers, durable goods

423

3,034.4 4.4 -0.6 4.6 0.1 3.9

Motor vehicles and parts

4231

347.3 3.7 0.0 3.5 -0.2 3.5

Furniture and furnishings

4232

111.7 1.8 2.4 1.6 -0.2 4.0

Lumber and construction supplies

4233

233.0 1.1 1.5 1.7 0.6 3.3

Commercial equipment

4234

630.4 11.7 -6.8 11.8 0.1 4.2

Metals and minerals

4235

125.4 -0.4 3.6 -0.2 0.1 3.4

Appliances and electric goods

4236

336.1 7.6 -3.0 7.2 -0.4 4.1

Hardware and plumbing

4237

257.2 1.6 1.9 2.3 0.7 4.3

Machinery and supplies

4238

672.0 1.8 2.1 1.7 0.0 3.8

Miscellaneous durable goods

4239

321.3 1.0 2.6 1.6 0.6 4.2

Merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods

424

2,103.9 1.2 2.7 1.4 0.2 4.1

Paper and paper products

4241

121.2 1.0 2.2 0.4 -0.7 2.6

Druggists' goods

4242

203.1 2.6 3.7 3.7 1.1 7.5

Apparel and piece goods

4243

153.7 1.9 1.6 1.5 -0.4 3.1

Grocery and related products

4244

784.0 1.0 2.4 1.7 0.7 4.2

Farm product raw materials

4245

74.5 1.4 3.9 -0.3 -1.7 3.5

Chemicals

4246

132.2 0.3 3.4 0.6 0.3 4.0

Petroleum

4247

98.2 2.5 1.9 1.1 -1.4 3.1

Alcoholic beverages

4248

199.8 0.2 2.9 2.0 1.8 5.0

Miscellaneous nondurable goods

4249

337.2 0.2 3.2 -0.2 -0.4 2.9

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

425

901.2 1.5 0.7 3.8 2.2 4.5

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

4251

901.2 1.5 0.7 3.8 2.2 4.5

Retail Trade

Retail trade

44-45

16,702.7 2.9 0.0 3.4 0.5 3.3

Motor vehicle and parts dealers

441

2,066.3 2.3 0.5 3.1 0.8 3.6

Automobile dealers

4411

1,330.1 2.3 0.5 3.2 0.9 3.7

Other motor vehicle dealers

4412

161.6 3.1 0.4 4.2 1.0 4.6

Auto parts, accessories, and tire stores

4413

574.6 1.0 1.4 1.8 0.8 3.2

Furniture and home furnishings stores

442

515.0 4.0 -1.1 3.9 0.0 2.8

Furniture stores

4421

237.4 3.4 -0.8 3.3 -0.1 2.5

Home furnishings stores

4422

277.6 4.7 -1.6 4.7 0.0 3.1

Electronics and appliance stores

443

520.3 10.7 -7.2 11.2 0.5 3.2

Electronics and appliance stores

4431

520.3 10.7 -7.2 11.2 0.5 3.2

Building material and garden supply stores

444

1,317.7 2.8 -0.2 3.5 0.6 3.3

Building material and supplies dealers

4441

1,145.7 2.7 0.0 3.5 0.8 3.4

Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores

4442

172.0 3.7 -1.1 3.6 0.0 2.5

Food and beverage stores

445

3,185.0 0.5 2.3 0.5 0.0 2.9

Grocery stores

4451

2,762.4 0.4 2.6 0.5 0.1 3.1

Specialty food stores

4452

248.8 0.5 1.8 -0.1 -0.6 1.8

Beer, wine and liquor stores

4453

173.8 2.2 0.5 1.4 -0.8 1.9

Health and personal care stores

446

1,115.6 1.6 1.7 2.7 1.1 4.4

Health and personal care stores

4461

1,115.6 1.6 1.7 2.7 1.1 4.4

Gasoline stations

447

940.0 1.5 1.4 1.2 -0.3 2.6

Gasoline stations

4471

940.0 1.5 1.4 1.2 -0.3 2.6

Clothing and clothing accessories stores

448

1,482.7 4.0 -1.1 3.7 -0.3 2.6

Clothing stores

4481

1,097.2 4.3 -1.3 4.1 -0.1 2.8

Shoe stores

4482

217.3 2.9 -0.7 2.5 -0.4 1.8

Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores

4483

168.2 3.3 -0.1 2.6 -0.7 2.5

Sports, hobby, music instruments, book stores

451

664.3 3.4 -0.8 3.9 0.5 3.1

Sporting goods and musical instrument stores

4511

573.5 4.0 -1.3 4.7 0.7 3.4

Book stores and news dealers

4512

90.8 1.2 1.0 0.4 -0.8 1.4

General merchandise stores

452

3,149.1 2.9 -0.8 4.3 1.3 3.5

Department stores

4521

1,194.8 0.7 0.8 0.6 0.0 1.4

Other general merchandise stores

4529

1,954.3 5.0 -1.9 7.5 2.4 5.5

Miscellaneous store retailers

453

976.4 3.3 -0.9 3.1 -0.2 2.2

Florists

4531

75.6 3.1 0.0 0.1 -2.9 0.1

Office supplies, stationery and gift stores

4532

274.6 5.4 -2.2 3.6 -1.7 1.4

Used merchandise stores

4533

226.7 4.8 -2.4 6.3 1.4 3.8

Other miscellaneous store retailers

4539

399.5 1.1 0.4 2.4 1.3 2.8

Nonstore retailers

454

770.3 7.9 -3.7 8.9 0.9 4.8

Electronic shopping and mail-order houses

4541

468.7 9.7 -4.7 14.1 4.0 8.7

Vending machine operators

4542

46.6 0.2 3.1 -2.1 -2.3 0.9

Direct selling establishments

4543

255.0 2.0 0.6 0.8 -1.2 1.4

Food Services and Drinking Places

Food services and drinking places

722

11,961.0 0.4 3.2 2.1 1.7 5.3

Special food services

7223

844.4 1.0 1.8 2.2 1.2 4.0

Drinking places, alcoholic beverages

7224

408.0 -0.2 3.0 0.0 0.2 3.0

Restaurants and other eating places

7225

10,708.6 0.4 3.3 2.2 1.9 5.7

Last Modified Date: July 19, 2018