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December 1993

International comparisons of manufacturing unit labor costs

Arthur Neef, Christopher Kask, Christopher Sparks

The rate of labor productivity growth was lower in the United States than in Japan and several European countries over the 1979-92 period. Only Belgium and the Netherlands had smaller average increases in unit labor costs after adjustment for exchange rate changes. This article first examines comparative trends in manufacturing output per hour, unit labor costs, and related measures for the United States and 11 other industrial nations in the most recent year, 1992, and then discusses developments over the period 1979 to 1992.

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