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Economic News Release
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Productivity and Costs, Fourth Quarter and Annual Averages 2020, Revised



Transmission of material in this release is embargoed until                                   USDL 21-0364
8:30 a.m. (ET) Thursday, March 4, 2021

Technical information: (202) 691-5606 •  Productivity@bls.gov • www.bls.gov/lpc
Media contact:         (202) 691-5902 •  PressOffice@bls.gov

                                         PRODUCTIVITY AND COSTS 
                           Fourth Quarter and Annual Averages 2020, Revised

Nonfarm business sector labor productivity decreased 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, the 
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today, as output increased 5.5 percent and hours worked 
increased 10.1 percent. (All quarterly percent changes in this release are seasonally adjusted annual 
rates.) From the fourth quarter of 2019 to the fourth quarter of 2020, nonfarm business sector labor 
productivity increased 2.4 percent, reflecting a 2.6-percent decline in output and a 4.9-percent decline 
in hours worked. (See table A1.) 

Unit labor costs in the nonfarm business sector increased at an annual rate of 6.0 percent in the fourth 
quarter of 2020, the combined effect of a 1.5-percent increase in hourly compensation and a 4.2-percent 
decline in productivity. Unit labor costs increased 4.2 percent over the last four quarters, as hourly 
compensation increased 6.7 percent and productivity increased 2.4 percent. (See table A1.) BLS 
calculates unit labor costs as the ratio of hourly compensation to labor productivity. Increases in hourly 
compensation tend to increase unit labor costs, and increases in productivity tend to reduce them.

========================================================================================================
                        Historical Revisions to Productivity and Costs Data
                        
Data in this release incorporate the annual benchmark revision of BLS Current Employment Statistics 
program data on employment and hours of employees on nonfarm payrolls, and also include revised data 
on employment and hours of all other business sector workers that reflect updated seasonal adjustment 
of those data by the BLS Major Sector Productivity program. See “Revised measures” and “Updated 
Seasonal Adjustment of Hours Worked Data" sections.
========================================================================================================

Labor productivity, or output per hour, is calculated by dividing an index of real output by an index of 
hours worked by all persons, including employees, proprietors, and unpaid family workers. The fourth 
quarter of 2020 is the second consecutive quarter with increases in both output and hours, following 
historic declines in those measures in the second quarter of 2020. Although output increased 5.5 percent 
and hours worked increased 10.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, output and hours remain 2.6 
percent and 4.9 percent below their fourth-quarter 2019 levels, respectively. 

Manufacturing sector labor productivity increased 5.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, as output 
increased 13.0 percent and hours worked increased 7.6 percent. Productivity had increased at a series-
high 20.7 percent annual rate in the third quarter of 2020, following a decline of 13.3 percent in the 
second quarter. Manufacturing productivity increased 2.8 percent from the same quarter a year ago. (See 
tables A1 and 3.)

Unit labor costs in the total manufacturing sector decreased 8.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, 
reflecting a 4.2-percent decrease in hourly compensation and a 5.0-percent increase in productivity. 
Manufacturing unit labor costs decreased 0.1 percent from the same quarter a year ago. (See tables A1 
and 3.)

The strong growth in manufacturing output and hours worked in the fourth quarter of 2020 followed the 
largest-ever increases in these series in the third quarter. Nevertheless, these measures have not yet 
fully recovered from the historic declines of the second quarter; output and hours remain 2.5 percent 
and 5.2 percent below their fourth-quarter 2019 levels, respectively. 

The robust growth in manufacturing output and hours in the fourth quarter of 2020 originated in both the 
durable goods and nondurable goods sectors. Durable goods manufacturing productivity increased 6.4 
percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, reflecting a 12.8-percent increase in output and a 6.0-percent 
increase in hours. Nondurable goods manufacturing productivity increased 2.8 percent in the fourth 
quarter of 2020, as output increased 13.1 percent and hours worked increased 10.1 percent. (See tables 
A1, 4, and 5.)

The concepts, sources, and methods used for the manufacturing output series differ from those used in 
the business and nonfarm business output series; these output measures are not directly comparable. See 
the Technical Notes for a more detailed explanation. 

Revised measures

Quarterly and annual measures of hours worked and related series--including productivity--were revised 
for all major sectors. From 2016 to 2020, the revisions reflect revised BLS Current Employment 
Statistics (CES) program data, due to annual benchmarking of CES data and revised seasonal adjustment 
of those data. Previous adjustments to employment and hours by the productivity program to account for 
the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and based in part on CES employment levels, were revised to be 
consistent with the benchmarked levels.

Quarterly and annual measures of hours worked and related series were also revised from 2000 to 2020 
to incorporate revised measures of hours worked by nonfarm proprietors and unpaid family workers, all 
farm workers, and employees of government enterprises. These measures, based on source data from the 
BLS Current Population Survey (CPS), are seasonally adjusted by the BLS Major Sector Productivity 
program, and were revised due to implementation of improved seasonal adjustment methods; for more 
information see “Updated Seasonal Adjustment of Hours Worked Data”. Because hours worked were 
revised for the index base year of 2012, all measures incorporating hours worked including productivity 
were subject to revision back to 1947; resulting revisions to percent changes are small. 

Quarterly and annual measures incorporating compensation were also subject to revision historically, 
because hours worked are used to estimate compensation for proprietors. Quarterly measures of real 
hourly compensation in 2020 were revised due to revised consumer prices. In addition, third quarter, 
fourth quarter, and annual average data for 2020 were revised to incorporate regular updates of source 
data on output and compensation. 

Revised and previous measures for the fourth quarter of 2020 are shown in table B1 for the business, 
nonfarm business, and manufacturing sectors. In the fourth quarter of 2020, nonfarm business 
productivity was revised up, from a decrease of 4.8 percent to a decline of 4.2 percent, reflecting a 
0.2-percentage point upward revision to output and a 0.6-percentage point downward revision to hours 
worked. Unit labor costs were revised down from an increase of 6.8 percent to an increase of 6.0 
percent.

Manufacturing productivity increased 5.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, rather than increasing 
3.0 percent as reported February 4, the combined effect of an upward revision to output and a downward 
revision to hours worked. A large downward revision to hourly compensation and an upward revision to 
productivity both contributed to a downward revision to unit labor costs, which decreased 8.8 percent 
rather than 2.4 percent as previously reported. Productivity was revised up in both the durable and 
nondurable manufacturing sectors. In particular, nondurable manufacturing productivity was revised up 
to an increase of 2.8 percent due entirely to an upward revision to output. (See table B1.)

In the third quarter of 2020, nonfarm business productivity was revised down to an increase of 4.2 
percent due to an upward revision to hours worked. Unit labor costs decreased 9.6 percent rather than 
7.0 percent as previously reported, as a 3.6-percentage point downward revision to hourly compensation 
was greater than the 0.9-percentage point downward revision to productivity. In the total manufacturing 
sector, and in durable goods manufacturing, productivity was revised up slightly, as output was revised 
up by more than hours worked. Nondurable manufacturing productivity was revised up somewhat more, 
as output was revised up and hours worked were revised down. In all manufacturing sectors, large 
downward revisions to hourly compensation led to large downward revisions to unit labor costs, which 
fell 27.4 percent in total manufacturing in third-quarter 2020. (See table B2.) 

Nonfinancial corporate sector productivity declined 0.6 percent in the third quarter of 2020 rather than 
increasing 1.5 percent as previously reported, reflecting a 2.3-percentage point downward revision to 
output and a 0.5-percentage point upward revision to hours. (See table A2.)

Annual averages

Table C1 presents annual average changes for the most recent 5 years for the nonfarm business sector 
and the total manufacturing sector. Nonfarm business sector productivity grew 2.5 percent in 2020, as 
output decreased 4.2 percent and hours worked decreased 6.5 percent. The 2.5-percent increase in 
nonfarm business labor productivity is the largest annual increase since 2010, when it increased 3.4 
percent. The decline in output (-4.2 percent) is the largest annual decline in the series, which begins 
in 1947. The decline in hours (-6.5 percent) is the largest annual decline in this series since 2009,
when the measure declined 7.1 percent.

Unit labor costs in the nonfarm business sector increased 3.8 percent in 2020, reflecting increases of
6.4 percent in hourly compensation and 2.5 percent in productivity. Real hourly compensation, which takes 
into account changes in consumer prices, increased 5.0 percent in 2020. This is the largest annual 
increase in real hourly compensation in the series, which begins in 1947.

In the manufacturing sector, productivity increased 0.3 percent in 2020, reflecting a decrease in output 
of 6.3 percent and a decrease in hours of 6.6 percent. The decrease in output was the largest annual 
decline since a decline of 12.0 percent in 2009. The decline in hours was the largest annual decline since 
a decline of 12.9 percent in 2009.

Manufacturing unit labor costs increased 4.4 percent in 2020, rather than increasing 7.4 percent as 
previously reported. Manufacturing hourly compensation increased 4.8 percent, rather than the 
preliminary estimate of 7.2 percent.

Quarterly and annual data for all sectors from 2018 to 2020 appear in tables 1-6. Full historical 
measures can be found on the Productivity and Costs home page: www.bls.gov/lpc/#data.
______________
The preliminary Productivity and Costs news release for first-quarter 2021 is scheduled to be 
released on Thursday, May 6, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. (ET).





=========================================================================================================================
Table A1. Labor productivity growth and related measures - revised fourth-quarter 2020
(percent change from previous quarter at annual rate and from same quarter a year ago)


                                                Labor                   Hours    Hourly         Real hourly    Unit labor
Sector                  Percent change from:    productivity   Output   worked   compensation   compensation   costs
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nonfarm business        Previous quarter           -4.2         5.5      10.1        1.5            -0.9         6.0
                        A year ago                  2.4        -2.6      -4.9        6.7             5.3         4.2
                        
Business                Previous quarter           -4.9         5.5      10.9        0.8            -1.6         6.0
                        A year ago                  2.4        -2.5      -4.8        6.6             5.2         4.1
                        
Manufacturing           Previous quarter            5.0        13.0       7.6       -4.2            -6.5        -8.8
                        A Year ago                  2.8        -2.5      -5.2        2.7             1.4        -0.1
 Durable
 manufacturing          Previous quarter            6.4        12.8       6.0       -6.0            -8.2       -11.7
                        A year ago                  3.3        -3.4      -6.5        1.1            -0.2        -2.2
 Nondurable
 manufacturing          Previous quarter            2.8        13.1      10.1       -0.5            -2.9        -3.2
                        A year ago                  1.6        -1.5      -3.1        6.3             4.9         4.6
=========================================================================================================================


=========================================================================================================================
Table A2. Labor productivity growth and related measures - revised and previously published third-quarter 2020
(percent change from previous quarter at annual rate)


                                                Labor                   Hours    Hourly         Real hourly    Unit labor
Sector                                          productivity   Output   worked   compensation   compensation   costs
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------       
Nonfinancial             Revised                   -0.6         32.0     32.8       -5.9            -10.1       -5.3
corporate          Previously published             1.5         34.3     32.3       -2.9             -7.7       -4.4
=========================================================================================================================


=========================================================================================================================
Table B1. Labor productivity growth and related measures - revised and previously published fourth-quarter 2020
(percent change from previous quarter at annual rate)


                                                Labor                   Hours    Hourly         Real hourly    Unit labor
Sector                                          productivity   Output   worked   compensation   compensation   costs
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nonfarm business        Revised                    -4.2         5.5      10.1        1.5            -0.9         6.0
                   Previously published            -4.8         5.3      10.7        1.7            -0.6         6.8
                        
Business                Revised                    -4.9         5.5      10.9        0.8            -1.6         6.0
                   Previously published            -5.4         5.3      11.3        1.1            -1.1         6.8
                        
Manufacturing           Revised                     5.0        13.0       7.6       -4.2            -6.5        -8.8
                   Previously published             3.0        11.2       8.0        0.5            -1.7        -2.4

 Durable                Revised                     6.4        12.8       6.0       -6.0            -8.2       -11.7
 manufacturing     Previously published             5.3        12.5       6.8        0.1            -2.1        -5.0
                        
 Nondurable             Revised                     2.8        13.1      10.1       -0.5            -2.9        -3.2
 manufacturing     Previously published             0.0         9.9       9.9        1.7            -0.5         1.7
=========================================================================================================================


=========================================================================================================================
Table B2. Labor productivity growth and related measures - revised and previously published third-quarter 2020
(percent change from previous quarter at annual rate)


                                                Labor                   Hours    Hourly         Real hourly    Unit labor
Sector                                          productivity   Output   worked   compensation   compensation   costs
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nonfarm Business        Revised                     4.2        44.1      38.3       -5.8            -10.0       -9.6
                   Previously published             5.1        44.1      37.1       -2.2             -7.0       -7.0
                        
Business                Revised                     5.5        44.2      36.7       -4.8             -9.1       -9.7
                   Previously published             6.5        44.2      35.5       -1.1             -6.0       -7.1
                        
Manufacturing           Revised                    20.7        57.8      30.8      -12.4            -16.3      -27.4
                   Previously published            20.2        56.7      30.4        5.3              0.2      -12.4

 Durable                Revised                    48.2       102.8      36.8      -16.5            -20.2      -43.7
 manufacturing     Previously published            48.1       101.3      36.0        7.5              2.2      -27.4
                        
 Nondurable             Revised                     1.4        23.3      21.5       -5.2             -9.4       -6.5
 manufacturing     Previously published             0.5        22.4      21.8        0.3             -4.7       -0.3
=========================================================================================================================


=========================================================================================================================
Table C1. Labor productivity growth and related measures - annual average changes: 2016-2020


                                                Labor                   Hours    Hourly         Real hourly    Unit labor
Sector                  Year                    productivity   Output   worked   compensation   compensation   costs
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nonfarm business        2020                        2.5        -4.2      -6.5        6.4              5.0        3.8
                        2019                        1.8         2.5       0.7        3.7              1.8        1.9
                        2018                        1.4         3.5       2.0        3.3              0.9        1.9
                        2017                        1.2         2.8       1.5        3.5              1.3        2.3
                        2016                        0.4         1.8       1.4        1.1             -0.2        0.7
                        
Manufacturing           2020                        0.3        -6.3      -6.6        4.8              3.4        4.4
                        2019                        0.3         0.0      -0.3        3.1              1.3        2.8
                        2018                        0.4         2.3       1.9        2.1             -0.3        1.7
                        2017                       -0.3         0.7       1.0        3.3              1.1        3.6
                        2016                       -0.2        -0.1       0.1        0.5             -0.8        0.7
=========================================================================================================================


=========================================================================================================================
                         Updated Seasonal Adjustment of Hours Worked Data

Source data on hours worked of employees in nonfarm establishments are seasonally adjusted by the BLS 
Current Employment Statistics (CES) program. To supplement these data, the BLS Office of Productivity 
and Technology (OPT) uses data for other classes of workers from the BLS Current Population Survey 
(CPS). OPT extracts and compiles the CPS not-seasonally-adjusted data by industry and class of worker and 
performs the seasonal adjustment. Large changes in employment and hours worked due to the COVID-19 
pandemic led OPT to implement use of X-13ARIMA-SEATS (X13) software to take advantage of its 
ARIMA-model-based option for outlier detection and seasonal adjustment; this approach can perform better 
for some irregular series. Prior to this change, X12ARIMA software had been used. Only 2020 data were 
based on the new seasonal adjustment methodology.       

Today’s release of hours worked data and related measures--including labor productivity--incorporates data 
seasonally adjusted using the new X13-based methodology back to the first quarter of 2000. This is the first 
time these CPS-based series have been revised for previous years due to updated seasonal adjustment. In the 
future, these data will be revised back 5 years after each annual evaluation of seasonal models. At that time, 
seasonal adjustment parameters will be set for the upcoming year, and monthly concurrent seasonal 
adjustment will revise 2 previous months as each new month is added; the same monthly production 
methodology previously used. 
=============================================================================================================== 

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Last Modified Date: March 04, 2021