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Labor productivity up 7.7 percent in retail trade and 3.6 percent in wholesale trade in 2020

August 04, 2021

In 2020, labor productivity rose 7.7 percent in retail trade, the highest annual growth since measurement began in 1987. Hours worked decreased 3.6 percent and output increased 3.9 percent in retail trade. In wholesale trade, productivity rose 3.6 percent in 2020, as output fell 2.6 percent and hours worked decreased 6.0 percent. The declines in hours worked for retail trade and wholesale trade were the largest since 2009.

Annual percent change in labor productivity, hours worked, and output in wholesale trade and retail trade, 1988–2020
Year Wholesale trade labor productivity Wholesale trade hours worked Wholesale trade output Retail trade labor productivity Retail trade hours worked Retail trade output

1988

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

1989

1.1 2.7 3.9 0.8 1.8 2.6

1990

4.8 -1.7 3.0 0.2 0.8 0.9

1991

0.9 -1.2 -0.3 0.4 -2.3 -1.9

1992

7.8 -1.4 6.3 4.5 -0.4 4.1

1993

3.6 -0.2 3.4 3.4 2.2 5.7

1994

2.0 3.4 5.4 4.3 2.9 7.4

1995

2.7 3.2 5.9 1.8 1.9 3.8

1996

3.5 1.0 4.5 4.1 1.1 5.3

1997

3.8 1.6 5.5 2.6 1.8 4.4

1998

3.7 1.6 5.4 5.6 0.6 6.3

1999

7.6 1.0 8.7 6.7 1.9 8.7

2000

5.4 0.7 6.2 3.2 1.2 4.4

2001

1.6 -4.1 -2.5 3.7 -1.0 2.7

2002

4.7 -3.0 1.6 4.5 -0.9 3.5

2003

5.6 -1.1 4.4 4.9 -0.3 4.6

2004

7.7 -0.2 7.5 5.2 0.0 5.3

2005

2.9 2.0 4.9 2.3 1.1 3.5

2006

2.2 2.7 4.9 3.8 -0.6 3.2

2007

1.2 1.8 3.0 2.2 0.0 2.2

2008

-3.1 -0.9 -4.0 -2.2 -2.3 -4.5

2009

-3.2 -7.7 -10.6 0.5 -5.8 -5.3

2010

7.1 -1.8 5.2 2.4 0.7 3.1

2011

-0.1 3.1 2.9 0.7 2.2 2.9

2012

1.9 1.4 3.4 2.2 1.0 3.3

2013

2.3 1.2 3.5 4.3 -0.5 3.8

2014

2.0 1.4 3.3 1.7 2.2 3.9

2015

1.7 0.6 2.4 3.2 1.6 4.9

2016

0.4 0.4 0.8 4.4 -0.2 4.2

2017

1.5 0.2 1.7 1.9 1.3 3.2

2018

2.0 0.5 2.5 3.0 -0.1 2.9

2019

0.0 0.2 0.2 4.8 -1.6 3.1

2020

3.6 -6.0 -2.6 7.7 -3.6 3.9

In wholesale trade, productivity increased in both durable goods (+1.6 percent) and nondurable goods (+8.3 percent) in 2020. Productivity fell 4.7 percent in electronic markets and agents and brokers.

 Percent change in labor productivity, by industry, 2019–20
Industry Percent change

Wholesale trade

3.6%

Nondurable goods

8.3

Paper and paper products

17.7

Alcoholic beverages

14.3

Druggists' goods

13.0

Petroleum

8.0

Grocery and related products

5.8

Miscellaneous nondurable goods

5.2

Farm product raw materials

4.6

Chemicals

2.3

Apparel and piece goods

-0.4

Durable goods

1.6

Hardware and plumbing

7.1

Appliances and electric goods

6.3

Miscellaneous durable goods

6.0

Furniture and furnishings

4.5

Machinery and supplies

2.4

Motor vehicles and parts

2.3

Commercial equipment

1.4

Lumber and construction supplies

-1.8

Metals and minerals

-4.4

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

-4.7

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

-4.7

Retail trade

7.7

Nonstore retailers

19.6

Vending machine operators

26.7

Electronic shopping and mail-order houses

12.9

Direct selling establishments

9.9

Sports, hobby, music instruments, book stores

19.5

Book stores and news dealers

58.1

Sporting goods and musical instrument stores

16.0

Health and personal care stores

13.1

Health and personal care stores

13.1

Miscellaneous store retailers

12.2

Florists

24.9

Other miscellaneous store retailers

13.7

Used merchandise stores

3.4

Office supplies, stationery and gift stores

-0.3

Food and beverage stores

8.8

Beer, wine and liquor stores

18.3

Specialty food stores

9.0

Grocery stores

7.6

Motor vehicle and parts dealers

7.0

Other motor vehicle dealers

25.9

Automobile dealers

8.2

Auto parts, accessories, and tire stores

1.8

Clothing and clothing accessories stores

3.6

Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores

35.4

Shoe stores

12.1

Clothing stores

-4.3

Furniture and home furnishings stores

2.9

Furniture stores

7.1

Home furnishings stores

-1.6

General merchandise stores

2.2

Other general merchandise stores

0.5

Department stores

-2.7

Building material and garden supply stores

-0.7

Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores

11.0

Building material and supplies dealers

-2.3

Electronics and appliance stores

-2.0

Electronics and appliance stores

-2.0

Gasoline stations

-5.0

Gasoline stations

-5.0

In retail trade, productivity rose in 9 of the 12 industries studied. The largest productivity increases in 2020 occurred in nonstore retailers (+19.6 percent) and sports, hobby, music instruments, book stores (+19.5 percent). Productivity decreased in building material and garden supply stores (−0.7 percent), electronics and appliance stores (−2.0 percent), and gasoline stations (−5.0 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 — 2020."  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 up 7.7 percent in retail trade and 3.6 percent in wholesale trade in 2020 at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2021/labor-productivity-up-7-7-percent-in-retail-trade-and-3-6-percent-in-wholesale-trade-in-2020.htm (visited November 30, 2021).

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