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Labor productivity growth in retail trade in 2019 at its highest since 1999

August 06, 2020

In 2019, labor productivity rose 5.3 percent in retail trade and 0.4 percent in wholesale trade. Annual productivity growth for retail trade in 2019 was the highest since a 6.7-percent increase in 1999.

Wholesale and retail trade labor productivity, hours worked, and output, annual percent change, 1988–2019
Year Wholesale trade labor productivity Retail trade labor productivity Wholesale trade hours worked Retail trade hours worked Wholesale trade output Retail trade output

1988

3.2% 2.1% 3.3% 2.3% 6.6% 4.5%

1989

1.1 0.8 2.7 1.8 3.9 2.6

1990

4.8 0.2 -1.7 0.8 3.0 0.9

1991

0.9 0.4 -1.2 -2.3 -0.3 -1.9

1992

7.8 4.5 -1.4 -0.4 6.3 4.1

1993

3.6 3.4 -0.2 2.2 3.4 5.7

1994

2.0 4.3 3.3 2.9 5.4 7.4

1995

2.7 1.8 3.2 1.9 5.9 3.8

1996

3.4 4.1 1.0 1.1 4.5 5.3

1997

3.8 2.6 1.6 1.8 5.5 4.4

1998

3.7 5.6 1.7 0.6 5.4 6.3

1999

7.6 6.7 1.0 1.9 8.7 8.7

2000

5.4 3.2 0.7 1.2 6.2 4.4

2001

1.6 3.7 -4.0 -1.0 -2.5 2.7

2002

4.6 4.5 -2.9 -0.9 1.6 3.5

2003

5.4 4.9 -1.1 -0.3 4.2 4.6

2004

7.5 5.2 -0.2 0.1 7.2 5.3

2005

2.5 2.3 2.0 1.1 4.5 3.5

2006

1.9 3.8 2.7 -0.6 4.6 3.2

2007

1.0 2.2 1.8 0.0 2.8 2.2

2008

-3.7 -2.2 -0.9 -2.3 -4.6 -4.5

2009

-2.6 0.5 -7.7 -5.8 -10.1 -5.3

2010

6.5 2.4 -1.8 0.7 4.6 3.1

2011

-0.9 0.7 3.1 2.2 2.2 2.9

2012

1.8 2.2 1.4 1.0 3.2 3.3

2013

2.4 4.2 1.2 -0.5 3.6 3.7

2014

2.1 1.8 1.4 2.2 3.4 4.0

2015

2.4 3.5 0.6 1.6 3.1 5.2

2016

0.7 4.6 0.5 -0.2 1.2 4.4

2017

1.3 2.1 0.2 1.3 1.5 3.5

2018

1.3 3.0 0.5 -0.1 1.8 2.9

2019

0.4 5.3 0.6 -1.5 1.0 3.7

In 2019, retail trade output increased 3.7 percent, compared with 2.9 percent in 2018. Hours worked in retail trade decreased 1.5 percent, a faster rate than in 2018 (−0.1 percent). In wholesale trade, productivity and output increased at a slower rate than in 2018 and hours worked increased at a slightly faster rate.

Productivity increased in 13 of the 15 industries studied in 2019. Eight industries had productivity gains of at least 4.0 percent, with the highest in nonstore retailers (+14.0 percent), which also had the largest increase in output (+15.6 percent). Electronics and appliance stores was the only other industry in which labor productivity increased at least 10 percent. Hours worked in this industry decreased at a faster rate than any other industry, at −7.5 percent.

 Wholesale and retail trade labor productivity, hours worked, and output, annual percent change, 2018–2019
Industry Labor productivity Output Hours worked

Nonstore retailers

14.0% 15.6% 1.5%

Electronics and appliance stores

11.7 3.3 -7.5

General merchandise stores

7.0 1.2 -5.4

Sports, hobby, music instruments, book stores

6.2 -0.2 -6.0

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

5.6 1.4 -4.0

Clothing and clothing accessories stores

5.5 1.3 -4.0

Furniture and home furnishings stores

4.9 -0.3 -5.0

Health and personal care stores

4.5 3.2 -1.3

Gasoline stations

2.0 1.8 -0.2

Miscellaneous store retailers

1.9 2.1 0.2

Food and beverage stores

1.8 1.7 -0.1

Motor vehicle and parts dealers

1.4 3.0 1.6

Merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods

1.3 1.7 0.4

Merchant wholesalers, durable goods

-1.1 0.3 1.4

Building material and garden supply stores

-2.3 -0.2 2.2

In 2019, the two industries with productivity declines were building material and garden supply stores (−2.3 percent) and merchant wholesalers, durable goods (−1.1 percent).

These data are from the Labor Productivity and Costs program. Data are preliminary and may be revised. To learn more, see "Productivity and Costs by Industry: Wholesale Trade and Retail Trade Industries — 2019."  Also see charts related to the latest "Productivity and Costs by Industry: Wholesale and Retail Trade Industries" news release.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Labor productivity growth in retail trade in 2019 at its highest since 1999 on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2020/labor-productivity-growth-in-retail-trade-in-2019-at-its-highest-since-1999.htm (visited September 26, 2020).

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