September 03, 1999
Unit labor costs plunged by 37.4 percent in Korean manufacturing in 1998. The next steepest declines were also in East Asia—manufacturing unit labor costs expressed in U.S. dollars fell by 15.2 percent in Taiwan and 7.2 percent in Japan.
Of the 14 countries in the analysis, all except two experienced drops in manufacturing unit labor costs in 1998. Unit labor costs rose by 5.9 percent in the United Kingdom and by 0.2 percent in the United States.
In these comparisons, unit labor costs are measured on a U.S. dollar basis and are strongly affected by changes in exchange rates. In a number of cases, exchange rate depreciation was large enough to overcome an increase in national-currency unit labor costs and result in a drop in costs when expressed in U.S. dollars.
These data are a product of the BLS Foreign Labor Statistics program. Data are preliminary and subject to revision. Additional information is available in "International Comparisons of Manufacturing Productivity and Unit Labor Cost Trends, 1998," news release USDL 99-235. Unit labor costs—the cost of the labor input required to produce one unit of output—are computed by dividing labor costs in nominal terms by real output. Unit labor costs also can be expressed as the ratio of hourly compensation to labor productivity.