Productivity and compensation, 1987–2015

July 10, 2017

Increases in productivity (defined as real output per hour worked) have long been associated with increases in compensation for employees. Most of the industries for which BLS has productivity data had increases in both labor productivity and compensation over the 1987–2015 period. However, the growth in productivity outpaced the growth in compensation in all studied industries except for mining.

Change in productivity and compensation by industry, 1987–2015
Industry Percentage change in
Percentage change in
real compensation per hour


5.0% 1.4%


3.3 0.8

Wholesale trade

2.9 1.2

Retail trade

2.8 0.2


2.2 1.0

Other services

1.2 0.9

Transportation and warehousing

1.1 -0.2

Accommodation and food services

0.7 0.7


0.5 1.5

Productivity in the information industry increased 5.0 percent from 1987 to 2015, while real compensation increased 1.4 percent. Manufacturing productivity increased 3.3 percent, while compensation increased 0.8 percent.

Transportation and warehousing productivity increased 1.1 percent, but compensation decreased by 0.2 percent.

Mining was the only industry in which the change in productivity (0.5 percent) was smaller than the change in real compensation (1.5 percent) over the 1987–2015 period.

These data are from the Labor Productivity and Costs program. Compensation has been adjusted for inflation with the Consumer Price Index. To learn more, see Understanding the labor productivity and compensation gap (Beyond the Numbers, June 2017).


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Productivity and compensation, 1987–2015 on the Internet at (visited September 23, 2017).


Recent editions of Spotlight on Statistics