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Unit labor costs decreased in 5 of 29 selected service-providing industries in 2019

June 02, 2020

Labor productivity rose in 14 of 29 selected service-providing industries in 2019, compared to 2018 when labor productivity increased in 21 of 29 industries. Unit labor costs declined in 5 industries in 2019. Each of the industries with a decline in unit labor costs also recorded an increase in productivity.

Percent change in labor productivity and unit labor costs for selected service-providing industries, 2018 to 2019
Industry Labor productivity Unit labor costs 2019 employment

Wireless telecommunications carriers

13.2% -0.5% 106,900

Gambling industries

8.8 -5.3 124,200

Periodical publishers

5.9 -6.7 90,200

Warehousing and storage

5.6 2.6 1,197,700

Wired telecommunications carriers

5.5 2.1 523,600

Line-haul railroads

5.3 -1.9 158,800

Software publishers

4.8 -1.1 461,100

Automotive repair and maintenance

3.7 0.6 1,165,000

Air transportation

2.5 3.5 492,500

Commercial banking

2.5 0.8 1,391,200

Newspaper publishers

1.5 5.9 144,400

Power generation and supply

1.1 5.2 385,500

Radio and television broadcasting

0.6 4.4 222,800

Restaurants and other eating places

0.3 3.9 11,008,100

Travel arrangement and reservation services

0.0 6.4 248,800

Amusement parks and arcades

-0.7 4.6 229,300

Medical and diagnostic laboratories

-1.2 6.9 299,300

Accounting and bookkeeping services

-1.8 4.5 1,191,600

Natural gas distribution

-2.2 3.2 110,300

Engineering services

-2.3 3.4 1,044,300

Cable and other subscription programming

-2.4 5.4 54,900

Postal service

-2.7 11.4 607,300

Drycleaning and laundry services

-3.4 3.4 306,000

Water, sewage and other systems

-3.7 8.1 53,200

General freight trucking, long-distance

-5.5 9.8 930,400

Truck, trailer, and RV rental and leasing

-5.7 10.4 91,800

Specialized freight trucking

-6.0 10.2 491,400

Couriers and messengers

-10.8 13.2 872,500

General freight trucking, local

-11.2 18.4 343,900

From 2018 to 2019, the largest declines in unit labor costs were in periodical publishers (−6.7 percent) and gambling industries (−5.3 percent). Each of the industries where productivity fell also recorded an increase in unit labor costs. The largest increases in unit labor costs were in general freight, local (18.4 percent) and couriers and messengers (13.2 percent), where labor productivity decreased by 11.2 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively.

These data are from the Labor Productivity and Costs program. Unit labor costs represent the cost of labor required to produce one unit of output. The unit labor cost indexes are computed by dividing an index of nominal industry labor compensation by an index of real industry output. Unit labor costs also describe the relationship between compensation per hour and real output per hour (labor productivity). Increases in hourly compensation increase unit labor costs; increases in labor productivity offset compensation increases and reduce unit labor costs. To learn more, see "Productivity and Costs by Industry: Selected Service-Providing Industries — 2019." We also have more charts on productivity and costs in service-providing industries.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Unit labor costs decreased in 5 of 29 selected service-providing industries in 2019 on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2020/unit-labor-costs-decreased-in-5-of-29-selected-service-providing-industries-in-2019.htm (visited August 04, 2020).

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