Unit labor costs in the fourth quarter of 2009

March 08, 2010

Unit labor costs in nonfarm businesses decreased 4.7 percent from the same quarter a year ago, the largest four-quarter decline since the series began in 1948.

Unit labor costs, nonfarm business, all persons, seasonally adjusted, first quarter (I) 2004 – fourth quarter (IV) 2009
[Chart data]

From the previous quarter, at an annual rate, unit labor costs in nonfarm businesses fell 5.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, the result of productivity increasing faster than hourly compensation.

The annual average index of unit labor costs declined 1.7 percent from 2008 to 2009, the largest decline in that series.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines 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 output per hour tend to reduce them.

These data, from the Productivity and Costs program, are seasonally adjusted and are subject to revision. To learn more about productivity, output, hours and related measures, see "Productivity and Costs: Fourth Quarter and Annual Averages 2009, Revised" (HTML) (PDF), news release USDL-10-0255.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Unit labor costs in the fourth quarter of 2009 on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2010/ted_20100308.htm (visited July 25, 2017).


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