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Economic News Release

Total Factor Productivity for Detailed Industries - 2021

For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Thursday, August 31, 2023					      USDL-23-1892

Technical Information:	(202) 691-5606  • •
Media Contact:			(202) 691-5902  •


Total factor productivity–-defined as output per unit of combined inputs-–rose in 78 of the 86 4-digit NAICS
manufacturing industries in 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. This represents an 
increase from 2020, when total factor productivity increased in 25 manufacturing industries. Total factor 
productivity also increased in air transportation and line-haul railroads in 2021.

The ten largest 4-digit NAICS manufacturing industries (those with employment over 350,000) all experienced 
increasing total factor productivity in 2021. Output rose in seven of these industries and declined in three 
industries: aerospace products and parts (-2.9 percent), animal slaughtering and processing (-1.5 percent), 
and architectural and structural metals (-0.5 percent). Combined inputs (capital, hours worked, materials, 
energy, and purchased services) increased in only two of these industries: pharmaceuticals and medicines 
(+1.7 percent) and semiconductors and electronic components (+0.6 percent).

Six of the 78 manufacturing industries with rising total factor productivity in 2021 had increases of more 
than 15.0 percent: 

	• Coating, engraving, and heat treating metals (+19.9 percent)
	• Clay products and refractories (+19.1 percent)
	• Cutlery and handtools (+16.2 percent)
	• Sugar and confectionery products (+15.9 percent)
	• Rubber products (+15.5 percent)
	• Petroleum and coal products (+15.3 percent)

Only three manufacturing industries posted total factor productivity declines of more than 5.0 percent 
(see table 1):

	• Iron and steel mills and ferroalloys (-20.8 percent)
	• Glass and glass products (-5.9 percent)
	• Alumina and aluminum production (-5.3 percent)

Total factor productivity increased in each of the two measured transportation industries: 

	• Air transportation (+44.2 percent)
	• Line-haul railroads (+7.2 percent)

Total Factor Productivity: Definition and Concepts

Changes in total factor productivity show the relationship between changes in real output and changes in the
combined inputs of labor, capital, and intermediate inputs (energy, materials, and purchased services) used 
to produce that output.

Measures of total factor productivity capture a variety of factors that influence economic growth that are 
not specifically accounted for among measured inputs, including technological change, returns to scale, 
enhancements in managerial and staff skills, changes in the organization of production, and other efficiency
improvements. Total factor productivity reflects these factors. See the technical note for more information.

Components of Total Factor Productivity Growth: Output and Combined Inputs

The manufacturing sector rebounded in 2021 as output increased in 65 of 86 industries, compared to 17 
industries in 2020. Among the industries that posted gains, output increased by 15.0 percent or more in the 
following six industries in 2021:

	• Magnetic media manufacturing and reproducing (+60.9 percent)
	• Motor vehicle bodies and trailers (+24.5 percent) 
	• Other leather products (+21.9 percent)
	• Clay products and refractories (+18.0 percent)
	• Coating, engraving, and heat treating metals (+17.6 percent)
	• Audio and video equipment (+15.2 percent)

Combined inputs of capital, labor, and intermediate inputs fell in 50 of 86 manufacturing industries in 
2021, compared to 71 in 2020. Thirty-one industries saw declines in hours worked. Intermediate inputs fell 
in 52 industries. Capital also fell in 64 of the manufacturing industries.

Of the 35 industries with rising combined inputs in 2021, the five with the largest gains were:

	• Magnetic media manufacturing and reproducing (+47.3 percent)
	• Motor vehicle bodies and trailers (+13.3 percent)
	• Other leather products (+8.6 percent)
	• Iron and steel mills and ferroalloys (+6.3 percent)
	• Accessories and other apparel (+6.3 percent)

In industries where combined inputs declined faster than output, total factor productivity increased.  
The greatest productivity gains occurred in: 

	• Boilers, tanks, and shipping containers (+12.4 percent)
	• Railroad rolling stock (+12.0 percent)
	• Animal food (+7.4 percent)
	• Fruit and vegetable preserving and specialty (+4.8 percent)

Total factor productivity in both measured transportation industries increased because output grew more 
rapidly than combined input usage. In the air transportation industry, output rose 71.3 percent and 
combined inputs rose 18.8 percent in 2021. In line-haul railroads, output increased 7.8 percent and 
combined inputs grew 0.5 percent.

Trends in Total Factor Productivity for Selected Time Periods

Both year-to-year movements and long-term trends in industry total factor productivity may reflect cyclical 
changes in the economy. This was particularly true in 2021 due to the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
While long-term annual percent changes in total factor productivity are affected by economic conditions such 
as the pandemic, these historical trends are nevertheless more reliable indicators of industry performance. 

More industries saw total factor productivity growth over the short term than the long term. Over the 
long-term period from 1987 to 2021, total factor productivity grew in 64 manufacturing industries, compared 
to 78 from 2020 to 2021. (See tables 1 and 2.) Annual rates of change in total factor productivity for 
nearly all manufacturing industries ranged between –2.0 percent and +2.0 percent per year over the long 
term. In contrast, total factor productivity increased by 2.1 percent or more in 70 industries in 2021. 
Only four industries saw an annual increase of that magnitude from 1987 to 2021. 

Although the distribution of total factor productivity growth for all the manufacturing industries may 
change significantly annually, 62 percent of industries are clustered between an increase of 0.1 percent and
1.0 percent in the long run. 

Between 1987 and 2021, the number of manufacturing industries with growth in total factor productivity was 
highest in 1992, 2003, 2010, and 2021. These were years of economic growth following recessions. In contrast, 
relatively few manufacturing industries saw total factor productivity growth in the recession years of 2001, 
2009, and 2020. 

Annual percent changes in total factor productivity by industry for sub periods between 1987 and 2021 are 
shown in table 3. The sub period from 1990 to 1995 saw the greatest number of manufacturing industries with 
total factor productivity growth.

Prior to the pandemic, air transportation total factor productivity grew at an annual rate of 1.2 percent 
for the period 1987-2019. (See table 2.) However, after accounting for the pandemic years, total factor 
productivity for the industry rose by an annual rate of only 0.4 percent per year. This change in the 
long-term trend is mainly due to air transportation output decreasing by 17.6 percent annually over the 
pandemic period (2019-2021). Output increased 4.0 percent in 2019, fell by 60.3 percent in 2020, and then 
increased 71.3 percent in 2021. 

For line-haul railroads, single-year output deepened from a 3.6-percent decline in 2019 to a 15.7-percent 
decline in 2020, before rebounding in 2021, growing 7.8 percent. This resulted in a 4.7-percent annual output
decline between 2019 and 2021. However, this change had a smaller effect on the long-term trend of total 
factor productivity, which increased 1.7 percent annually in the pre-pandemic 1987-2019 period compared to an
increase of 1.5 percent from 1987-2021.

Total Factor Productivity as a Source of Labor Productivity Growth

Total factor productivity measures differ from the BLS labor productivity measures because they compare 
output to the combined inputs of hours worked, capital, and intermediate inputs. Labor productivity relates 
output only to hours worked. Mathematically, an industry’s labor productivity is equal to total factor 
productivity plus the effects of factor substitution; that is, the combined effects of changes in weighted 
capital services relative to hours worked and weighted intermediate inputs relative to hours worked. These 
factor substitutions are referred to as contribution of capital intensity and contribution of intermediate 
inputs intensity. 

Eighty-two out of the 86 manufacturing industries posted gains in labor productivity from 1987 to 2021. 
Among these industries, substitution of intermediate inputs for labor was the leading source of labor 
productivity growth. (See table 4.) Growth in the contribution of intermediate inputs intensity occurs when
firms purchase a greater share of materials instead of using their own labor. Contribution of intermediate 
inputs intensity may also rise when firms substitute contracted labor for payroll labor. 

Strong growth in total factor productivity was the dominant source of labor productivity growth in the seven
industries with the highest labor productivity growth. This includes four industries that manufacture 
computers and electronic products (computer and peripheral equipment, semiconductors and electronic 
components, communication equipment, and audio and video equipment). Uniquely, the tobacco industry's labor
productivity growth was fueled by the contribution of capital intensity.

Additional Information

Measures of hours worked for all industries reflect a change in methods and are revised historically. The 
new method of determining hours worked uses all-employee hours data from the BLS Current Employment 
Statistics (CES) survey as the main source of data. This is an improvement upon the prior method which 
instead used the CES production worker hours data. Another improvement is the use of BLS Current Population
Survey (CPS) data to adjust CES all-employee hours paid to account for hours worked but not paid, also known
as off-the-clock hours. Hours worked data also now incorporate all employee-based hours-worked-to-hours-paid
ratios from the National Compensation Survey, rather than ratios based only on production workers. For more
information on the new hours worked methodology, see
More information about the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) can be found at

Access for productivity data tables which include:

	• Additional industries and sectors
	• Detailed data series: indexes of total factor productivity and related measures; rates of change; 
	  and levels of industry employment, hours worked, nominal value of production, and labor 
	• Additional years and long-term data

More information from the BLS productivity program is available at

	• More detailed capital and intermediate inputs data available upon request

Subscribe to productivity news releases on the BLS website at

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Last Modified Date: August 31, 2023