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Technical note

                                       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 and real output per hour (labor productivity). Increases in hourly 
compensation increase unit labor costs; increases in labor productivity offset compensation 
increases and reduce unit labor costs.

Output:  Real 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 is 
usually derived by deflating nominal sales or values of production using BLS price indexes, but for 
some industries it is measured by physical quantities of output. 

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. Other data sources include: the Energy Information 
Administration, U.S. Department of Energy; the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S. 
Department of Transportation; the U.S. Postal Service; the Postal Rate Commission; and the 
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Data from the Quarterly Service Survey from the Census 
Bureau are used to construct preliminary output measures for 2021 for some industries. Data from 
both the Census Bureau's Quarterly Service Survey and Monthly Retail Trade Survey are used to 
construct preliminary output measures for 2021 for some industries.

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 self-employed and unpaid family worker data 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. 
Additional sources of employment and hours data for certain service industries include the 
Association of American Railroads, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Postal 
Service. 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 economic censuses and annual surveys of the Census 
Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce. The estimates for 2021 are constructed using data from 
the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). 

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Last Modified Date: June 30, 2022