October 23, 2000
Unit labor costs rose 13.6 percent in Japanese manufacturing in 1999. The next largest increase was also in East Asia—manufacturing unit labor costs rose by 12.6 percent in Korea.
Of the 13 countries in the analysis, five experienced increases and eight experienced drops in manufacturing unit labor costs in 1999. The biggest decrease in unit labor costs, 4.4 percent, occurred in Belgium. Unit labor costs fell by 1.1 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. The increase in unit labor costs in U.S. dollars in Japan, Korea and Taiwan occurred because the exchange rates of their currencies strengthened against the U.S. dollar during 1999. The exchange rates of all the other currencies weakened against the U.S. dollar.
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, 1999," news release USDL 00-295. 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.