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, August 3, 2017                                                 USDL-17-1069

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 - 2016

Labor productivity rose 1.2 percent in wholesale trade, 4.6 percent in retail trade, and 1.3 percent in 
food services and drinking places in 2016, 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 2016, productivity, output, and hours worked all increased at a slower rate than in 
2015. In retail trade, the growth in output far outpaced the growth in hours worked leading to a bigger 
productivity increase in 2016 than in 2015. Productivity growth in food services and drinking places in 
2016 was slightly less than that of 2015 as output increased at a slower rate. 

Labor Productivity Rose in Majority of Industries in 2016

Productivity increased in all of the 16 3-digit NAICS industries studied in 2016 except for health and 
personal care stores. Seven 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 (12.6 percent).

Productivity increased in 36 of the 49 4-digit NAICS industries studied in 2016. Output grew in 41 
industries while hours worked grew in 29 industries. 

In wholesale trade, productivity rose 1.2 percent as output grew 1.6 percent and hours worked increased 
0.4 percent. 
      * Productivity grew 0.5 percent in durable goods wholesalers and 1.0 percent in nondurable goods 
        wholesalers. 
      * Productivity increased in 12 of the 19 4-digit wholesale trade industries while output rose in 14 
        industries and hours worked grew in 11. 
      * Productivity increased most rapidly in petroleum merchant wholesalers and farm product raw 
        material merchant wholesalers as output increased and hours worked fell in both industries. 

In retail trade, productivity and output grew 4.6 percent with hours worked virtually unchanged.
      * Productivity increased in 21 of the 27 4-digit retail trade industries while output grew in 24 
        industries and hours worked rose in 16. 
      * The largest productivity increases were in florists and office supplies, stationery, and gift stores 
        as output rose and hours worked declined in both industries. 
      * The electronic shopping and mail-order houses industry experienced the largest growth in output 
        (14.1 percent) resulting in an 11.4 percent increase in productivity.

In food services and drinking places, productivity rose 1.3 percent as output grew 3.5 percent and 
hours worked rose 2.2 percent. Output and productivity rose in all three 4-digit industries; hours worked 
rose in two industries.
 
Productivity Exceeded Hourly Compensation in Majority of Industries in 2016

When productivity gains outpace hourly compensation, unit labor costs facing employers decline. 
      * Unit labor costs fell in 12 out of 16 3-digit industries in 2016. All unit labor cost declines 
        occurred in industries where productivity rose.
      * Unit labor costs declined in 7 of 19 wholesale trade and 18 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 36 of the 49 
        4-digit industries.

Long-term Productivity Slowdown Reflected in All Three Industry Groups

From 1987 to 2016, labor productivity increased at an average annual rate of 2.8 percent in wholesale 
trade, 2.9 percent in retail trade, and 0.5 percent in food services and drinking places. 
      * Among the 4-digit industries, productivity rose in all but three industries from 1987 to 2016. 
        Median productivity among these industries grew at an average annual rate of 2.0 percent.
      * Over the long term, productivity growth was associated with rising output in 43 out of 49 4-digit 
        industries while hours worked increased in 26 industries.
      * The growth in productivity from 1987 to 2007 exceeded the growth in productivity from 2007 to 
        2016 in all three industry groups. Productivity increased in 45 out of 49 4-digit 
        industries from 1987 to 2007 compared to 34 industries from 2007 to 2016. 

From 1987 to 2016, unit labor costs increased at an average annual rate of 3.1 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 15 out of 49 industries from 1987 to 2016. 
        Unit labor costs declined in 2 out of 19 wholesale trade and 13 out of 27 retail trade industries 
        while increasing in all food services and drinking places industries.
      * From 2007 to 2016, unit labor costs declined in 15 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 2016 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 2017), Monthly Wholesale Trade 
Survey (May 2017), Annual Retail Trade Survey (March 2017), Annual Revision of the Monthly Retail 
and Food Services: Sales and Inventories (May 2017), and Nonemployer Statistics (May 2017). 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 2015 and earlier years. 
Additionally, the unit labor cost measures incorporate preliminary data from the BLS Quarterly Census 
of Employment and Wages (June 2017). 


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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 2016
Employment
(thousands)
Percent change, 2015-2016
Labor productivity Unit labor costs Output Hours worked Labor compensation

Wholesale Trade

Wholesale trade

42

6,049.1 1.2 -0.7 1.6 0.4 0.9

Merchant wholesalers, durable goods

423

3,028.0 0.5 1.0 0.7 0.2 1.8

Motor vehicles and parts

4231

343.3 -2.1 4.0 -0.7 1.4 3.2

Furniture and furnishings

4232

112.8 3.4 3.8 4.2 0.8 8.2

Lumber and construction supplies

4233

219.5 0.1 0.1 5.4 5.3 5.5

Commercial equipment

4234

633.4 3.1 -3.0 3.8 0.6 0.7

Metals and minerals

4235

128.0 -1.6 5.5 -6.1 -4.5 -1.0

Appliances and electric goods

4236

336.6 0.9 1.7 2.1 1.2 3.8

Hardware and plumbing

4237

248.4 -1.2 0.3 3.3 4.5 3.6

Machinery and supplies

4238

689.6 1.3 0.5 -1.9 -3.2 -1.3

Miscellaneous durable goods

4239

316.4 0.8 3.1 0.8 0.0 3.9

Merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods

424

2,113.5 1.0 -2.4 2.6 1.6 0.2

Paper and paper products

4241

122.5 1.7 -1.3 1.8 0.1 0.5

Druggists' goods

4242

205.3 1.5 -2.7 1.4 -0.1 -1.3

Apparel and piece goods

4243

158.0 -2.2 2.6 -1.6 0.6 1.0

Grocery and related products

4244

774.0 -2.0 -0.8 0.2 2.3 -0.7

Farm product raw materials

4245

75.0 11.7 -8.3 3.5 -7.3 -5.1

Chemicals

4246

132.2 2.6 1.6 -0.9 -3.4 0.7

Petroleum

4247

96.5 18.6 -19.6 13.0 -4.6 -9.1

Alcoholic beverages

4248

199.1 -2.1 4.3 1.5 3.7 5.9

Miscellaneous nondurable goods

4249

350.9 -4.4 2.6 2.6 7.3 5.3

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

425

907.6 3.9 -2.3 1.7 -2.1 -0.6

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

4251

907.6 3.9 -2.3 1.7 -2.1 -0.6

Retail Trade

Retail trade

44-45

16,670.3 4.6 -1.5 4.6 0.1 3.0

Motor vehicle and parts dealers

441

2,046.2 3.2 -1.3 4.8 1.6 3.5

Automobile dealers

4411

1,325.1 3.0 -0.9 5.2 2.1 4.2

Other motor vehicle dealers

4412

157.0 7.1 -4.0 4.5 -2.5 0.3

Auto parts, accessories, and tire stores

4413

564.1 -0.1 0.6 1.3 1.4 1.9

Furniture and home furnishings stores

442

521.1 5.5 -4.4 5.4 -0.1 0.8

Furniture stores

4421

244.2 3.6 -1.8 4.3 0.7 2.4

Home furnishings stores

4422

276.9 7.6 -7.2 6.6 -0.9 -1.0

Electronics and appliance stores

443

542.6 8.0 -6.4 3.9 -3.8 -2.7

Electronics and appliance stores

4431

542.6 8.0 -6.4 3.9 -3.8 -2.7

Building material and garden supply stores

444

1,312.0 5.3 -2.5 6.7 1.3 4.0

Building material and supplies dealers

4441

1,140.4 5.9 -2.7 7.4 1.4 4.5

Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores

4442

171.6 1.4 -2.0 2.0 0.6 -0.1

Food and beverage stores

445

3,184.4 4.7 -1.1 3.2 -1.4 2.0

Grocery stores

4451

2,754.6 5.5 -1.7 3.2 -2.1 1.5

Specialty food stores

4452

254.6 3.4 0.2 2.6 -0.7 2.8

Beer, wine and liquor stores

4453

175.2 -5.4 7.4 3.2 9.1 10.9

Health and personal care stores

446

1,091.3 -1.1 1.6 1.4 2.5 3.1

Health and personal care stores

4461

1,091.3 -1.1 1.6 1.4 2.5 3.1

Gasoline stations

447

933.1 4.2 -1.2 4.8 0.6 3.5

Gasoline stations

4471

933.1 4.2 -1.2 4.8 0.6 3.5

Clothing and clothing accessories stores

448

1,442.3 2.0 -0.3 0.7 -1.2 0.5

Clothing stores

4481

1,056.1 1.7 0.5 0.2 -1.5 0.7

Shoe stores

4482

218.1 3.5 -3.7 4.4 0.9 0.5

Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores

4483

168.1 2.2 -0.4 0.0 -2.2 -0.4

Sports, hobby, music instruments, book stores

451

678.6 2.6 -6.1 3.5 0.8 -2.9

Sporting goods and musical instrument stores

4511

587.0 3.0 -6.6 3.8 0.8 -3.0

Book stores and news dealers

4512

91.6 0.6 -3.5 1.2 0.7 -2.3

General merchandise stores

452

3,184.1 1.3 1.9 1.7 0.4 3.6

Department stores

4521

1,309.8 -1.9 2.8 -4.7 -2.8 -2.0

Other general merchandise stores

4529

1,874.3 1.3 3.3 3.8 2.4 7.2

Miscellaneous store retailers

453

991.3 9.8 -3.6 5.3 -4.1 1.5

Florists

4531

77.5 26.9 -14.1 10.8 -12.7 -4.8

Office supplies, stationery and gift stores

4532

290.1 14.4 -3.2 0.6 -12.0 -2.6

Used merchandise stores

4533

228.0 2.0 0.6 1.1 -0.9 1.7

Other miscellaneous store retailers

4539

395.7 6.3 -2.7 8.1 1.7 5.2

Nonstore retailers

454

743.3 7.7 -0.4 12.6 4.5 12.1

Electronic shopping and mail-order houses

4541

430.7 11.4 1.9 14.1 2.4 16.3

Vending machine operators

4542

43.9 -5.6 -0.4 -3.6 2.1 -4.0

Direct selling establishments

4543

268.7 -4.4 -0.2 4.5 9.4 4.3

Food Services and Drinking Places

Food services and drinking places

722

11,650.6 1.3 2.5 3.5 2.2 6.1

Special food services

7223

795.6 12.4 -1.7 3.2 -8.2 1.5

Drinking places, alcoholic beverages

7224

390.4 1.4 1.8 3.9 2.5 5.7

Restaurants and other eating places

7225

10,464.6 0.3 3.1 3.5 3.2 6.7






Table 2. Long run labor productivity, unit labor costs, and related data
Industry 2012 NAICS code 2016
Employment
(thousands)
Average annual percent change, 1987-2016
Labor productivity Unit labor costs Output Hours worked Labor compensation

Wholesale Trade

Wholesale trade

42

6,049.1 2.8 0.9 3.2 0.3 4.1

Merchant wholesalers, durable goods

423

3,028.0 4.4 -0.5 4.5 0.1 4.0

Motor vehicles and parts

4231

343.3 3.6 0.2 3.3 -0.3 3.5

Furniture and furnishings

4232

112.8 1.9 2.3 1.7 -0.2 4.1

Lumber and construction supplies

4233

219.5 1.1 1.4 1.6 0.5 3.1

Commercial equipment

4234

633.4 11.9 -7.0 12.1 0.1 4.2

Metals and minerals

4235

128.0 -0.4 3.8 -0.3 0.1 3.4

Appliances and electric goods

4236

336.6 7.8 -3.0 7.3 -0.4 4.1

Hardware and plumbing

4237

248.4 1.8 1.8 2.4 0.6 4.2

Machinery and supplies

4238

689.6 1.7 2.3 1.6 0.0 3.9

Miscellaneous durable goods

4239

316.4 0.9 2.8 1.5 0.5 4.3

Merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods

424

2,113.5 1.2 2.7 1.4 0.2 4.1

Paper and paper products

4241

122.5 1.2 2.3 0.4 -0.8 2.7

Druggists' goods

4242

205.3 2.6 3.8 3.8 1.2 7.7

Apparel and piece goods

4243

158.0 2.1 1.3 1.8 -0.3 3.1

Grocery and related products

4244

774.0 1.0 2.4 1.7 0.7 4.2

Farm product raw materials

4245

75.0 1.5 3.8 -0.3 -1.8 3.5

Chemicals

4246

132.2 0.3 3.4 0.6 0.3 4.0

Petroleum

4247

96.5 2.8 1.7 1.3 -1.5 3.0

Alcoholic beverages

4248

199.1 0.1 3.1 1.9 1.8 5.1

Miscellaneous nondurable goods

4249

350.9 0.0 3.3 -0.2 -0.2 3.0

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

425

907.6 1.5 0.8 3.7 2.1 4.6

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

4251

907.6 1.5 0.8 3.7 2.1 4.6

Retail Trade

Retail trade

44-45

16,670.3 2.9 0.0 3.4 0.5 3.3

Motor vehicle and parts dealers

441

2,046.2 2.2 0.6 3.0 0.8 3.7

Automobile dealers

4411

1,325.1 2.2 0.6 3.1 0.9 3.8

Other motor vehicle dealers

4412

157.0 2.6 0.9 3.7 1.1 4.6

Auto parts, accessories, and tire stores

4413

564.1 1.1 1.3 1.8 0.8 3.1

Furniture and home furnishings stores

442

521.1 3.7 -1.0 3.8 0.1 2.7

Furniture stores

4421

244.2 3.2 -0.7 3.2 0.0 2.5

Home furnishings stores

4422

276.9 4.4 -1.4 4.5 0.1 3.0

Electronics and appliance stores

443

542.6 10.8 -7.3 11.5 0.7 3.4

Electronics and appliance stores

4431

542.6 10.8 -7.3 11.5 0.7 3.4

Building material and garden supply stores

444

1,312.0 2.7 -0.1 3.4 0.6 3.3

Building material and supplies dealers

4441

1,140.4 2.6 0.1 3.4 0.7 3.4

Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores

4442

171.6 3.3 -0.8 3.2 0.0 2.4

Food and beverage stores

445

3,184.4 0.6 2.4 0.5 0.0 2.9

Grocery stores

4451

2,754.6 0.4 2.6 0.5 0.1 3.1

Specialty food stores

4452

254.6 0.3 2.2 -0.4 -0.6 1.9

Beer, wine and liquor stores

4453

175.2 2.1 0.7 1.3 -0.8 2.0

Health and personal care stores

446

1,091.3 2.0 1.3 3.1 1.1 4.5

Health and personal care stores

4461

1,091.3 2.0 1.3 3.1 1.1 4.5

Gasoline stations

447

933.1 1.6 1.2 1.3 -0.3 2.5

Gasoline stations

4471

933.1 1.6 1.2 1.3 -0.3 2.5

Clothing and clothing accessories stores

448

1,442.3 4.1 -1.2 3.7 -0.4 2.5

Clothing stores

4481

1,056.1 4.5 -1.4 4.2 -0.3 2.7

Shoe stores

4482

218.1 2.7 -0.7 2.6 -0.1 1.9

Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores

4483

168.1 3.5 -0.3 2.7 -0.7 2.5

Sports, hobby, music instruments, book stores

451

678.6 3.5 -0.8 4.1 0.6 3.2

Sporting goods and musical instrument stores

4511

587.0 4.1 -1.3 4.9 0.8 3.6

Book stores and news dealers

4512

91.6 1.5 0.9 0.7 -0.8 1.6

General merchandise stores

452

3,184.1 3.0 -0.8 4.4 1.3 3.6

Department stores

4521

1,309.8 0.6 1.0 0.7 0.1 1.7

Other general merchandise stores

4529

1,874.3 5.3 -2.0 7.7 2.2 5.5

Miscellaneous store retailers

453

991.3 3.3 -1.0 3.3 -0.1 2.2

Florists

4531

77.5 3.3 -0.3 0.2 -2.9 -0.1

Office supplies, stationery and gift stores

4532

290.1 5.5 -2.4 4.0 -1.4 1.5

Used merchandise stores

4533

228.0 4.4 -2.1 6.0 1.5 3.8

Other miscellaneous store retailers

4539

395.7 1.2 0.3 2.5 1.4 2.8

Nonstore retailers

454

743.3 8.1 -4.0 8.9 0.8 4.6

Electronic shopping and mail-order houses

4541

430.7 10.0 -5.1 14.3 3.9 8.5

Vending machine operators

4542

43.9 0.4 2.9 -2.4 -2.8 0.4

Direct selling establishments

4543

268.7 2.3 0.3 1.0 -1.3 1.3

Food Services and Drinking Places

Food services and drinking places

722

11,650.6 0.5 3.1 2.2 1.7 5.3

Special food services

7223

795.6 1.3 1.5 2.4 1.0 3.9

Drinking places, alcoholic beverages

7224

390.4 -0.4 3.4 -0.5 -0.1 2.9

Restaurants and other eating places

7225

10,464.6 0.5 3.2 2.3 1.9 5.7

Last Modified Date: August 03, 2017