Declines in unit labor costs and gains in productivity
December 30, 1999
Since 1987, unit labor costs have risen for 86 percent of the 173 industries included in a recent BLS report. However, there are about two dozen industries in which unit labor costs actually fell over the same period.
The data show a strong inverse relationship between changes in labor productivity—measured by output per hour—and changes in unit labor costs. In fact, all 23 industries that experienced declining unit labor costs since 1987 also experienced rising productivity.
The chart displays the rate of change in unit labor costs and the rise in output per hour in the 23 industries with declining unit labor costs. Follow the "Chart data—TXT" link for a list of those industries.
These data are a product of the BLS Industry Productivity program. Data are subject to revision. Unit labor costs—the cost of the labor input required to produce one unit of output—are computed by dividing total compensation by real output. For more information see BLS Report 939, "Unit Labor Costs for Selected Industries, 1987-97," (PDF 44K).
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Declines in unit labor costs and gains in productivity on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/1999/dec/wk4/art04.htm (visited January 20, 2017).
Recent editions of Spotlight on Statistics
Workplace injuries and illnesses and employer costs for workers’ compensation
Workplace injury and illness data and the costs to employers for workers’ compensation in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations.
A look at the future of the U.S. labor force to 2060
Projected long-term trends in the growth, size, and composition of the labor force.
Union membership in the United States
Historical trends in union membership among employed wage and salary workers; union membership by a variety of demographic characteristics.
A look at healthcare spending, employment, pay, benefits, and prices
Spending on healthcare, current and projected employment in the industry, employer-provided healthcare benefits, healthcare prices, and pay for workers in healthcare occupations.
Self-employment in the United States
Trends in self-employment by various demographic and socioeconomic characteristics, including both the unincorporated and the incorporated self-employed, as well as data on paid employees who work for the self-employed.