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Bureau of Labor Statistics > Productivity > Publications > Productivity Highlights

Water, Sewage, and Other Systems: Experimental Measures for Local Government and Private Enterprises

On February 16, 2023, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) introduced experimental measures for the Water, Sewage, and Other Systems Industry (NAICS 2213X) that expand coverage to include local government enterprises.

Downloadable data tables

(Excel 2013 or Later)

Output per worker and other measures for water, sewage, and other systems

Output per Worker: Expanding Industry Coverage

BLS publishes measures of labor productivity, unit labor costs, output, hours worked, and labor compensation for water, sewage, and other systems in its Selected Service-Providing Industries Economic News Release. However, these measures only include privately owned systems and exclude government enterprises. To better represent this industry, BLS is expanding coverage to include local government enterprises using alternative source data to construct experimental output and employment measures.[1] BLS experimental estimates (local government + private enterprises) indicate that, in 2019, approximately 75.5% of employment and 90% of revenues were in local government. State and federal enterprises are not included but appear to make up a small portion of the industry based on incomplete Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) employment data and U.S. Census Bureau revenue data.

The standard BLS output measure is built using the Census Bureau’s Service Annual Survey (SAS) revenue data, which only covers private enterprises. For this experimental measure, BLS sums revenue from local government and private enterprises and deflates the combined value with the corresponding industry Consumer Price Index (CPI) deflator to calculate the output index. The SAS is still used to account for private revenue, but these data are now combined with local government revenue from the Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances.[2] [3]

BLS measures productivity as output per hour worked. Typically, hours worked data from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program are used in BLS labor measures. However, the QCEW’s All Employees data are the only available source of published annual employment data for the government enterprises in this industry. Because the purpose of this experimental measure is to expand coverage to government enterprises, BLS uses data from the QCEW to estimate local government employment. This measure still uses CES data to estimate private sector employment, but to enable comparison between the two enterprise types, All Employees data are used instead of hours worked.

Consequently, for the purposes of this experimental measure, BLS uses the employment data that does exist and publishes a more limited measure of productivity: output per worker. The output per worker measure for the experimental Water, Sewage, and Other Systems (WSOX) Industry is the ratio of combined output and employment indexes.

Equation of output per worker in the industry as the ratio of the sum of output in the private and local government sectors to the sum of employment in the private and local government sectors.

Chart 1 demonstrates the relationship between output, employment, and output per worker. Output per worker fell each year over the 2009-16 period, except for a small increase in 2011. The declines in output per worker occurred as employment either fell at a slower rate (in 2010) than the decreasing output or increased (from 2012-16) as output continued to fall. In 2017, output rose for the first time in the reference period, but employment still grew faster. Output continued to rise and at a faster rate than employment, driving an increase in output per worker over the 2018-19 period.

Chart 1 is a bar and marker chart depicting the annual change (%) of Output, Employment, and Output per Worker for the Water, Sewage, and Other Systems (X) industry over the 2009-19 period. Chart data are included in the linked table below.
Chart 1 data. Output, Employment, and Output per Worker: Water, Sewage, and Other Systems (X), Annual Change (%)


Chart 2 highlights the influences of both the local government and private sectors on the combined industry-level output per worker measure. Notably, outside of a brief increase from 2013-14, private output per worker experienced a steep decline from 2009 through 2019. However, output per worker declined much less severely in local government over the 2009-16 period and rose from 2016-19. Because local government makes up a much larger share of the aggregate (local government + private) industry, the combined measure of output per worker also declined more slowly than in the private sector alone.

Chart 2 is line chart depicting Output per Worker over the 2009-19 period for Local Government Enterprise, Private Enterprises, and the Combined Industry for the Water, Sewage, and Other Systems (X) Industry. Chart data are included in the linked table below.
Chart 2 data. Output per Worker, by Ownership Sector and Combined, 2009-19


Chart 3 further showcases the added analytical power of the experimental measures, breaking down output, employment, and output per worker by enterprise type.  Local government output fell from 2009 through 2016 but started increasing in 2017 and continued up to 2019. Other than slight increases from 2013-14 and 2017-18, output in the private sector fell the duration of the series. On the employment side, the private sector series rose faster than in local government since 2011.

Chart 3 has Dual line charts depicting Output, Employment, and Output per Worker over the 2009-19 period, broken out by the Local Government and Private Enterprises of the Water, Sewage, and Other Systems (X) Industry. Chart data are included in the linked table below.
Chart 3 data. Output per Worker, by ownership sector and combined, 2009-19


Declining output coupled with increasing employment drove the decreases in private output per worker over the 2009-19 period. Falling output and relatively stable employment from 2009-16 led to the declines in local government output per worker during this timeframe. While employment rose from 2016-20, output started to grow at a faster rate, resulting in output per worker growth in the local government sector.


[1] Due to inconsistent data coverage, the inclusion of state and federal government enterprises is not currently feasible.

[2] While the same SAS revenue data and CPI deflators are used for private enterprises in both the experimental and the standard BLS measure, output values will differ between the two publications. Variation in the two output series stems from alternative benchmarking methods. Because the experimental data only go back to 2009, BLS chose to extend the direct SAS to Economic Census link through the duration of the series. In our standard update, an alternative benchmark is used for the 1987-2012 period.

[3] The experimental series excludes data related to the sub-industry steam and air-conditioning supply (NAICS 22133) for local government enterprises because the Census Bureau’s State and Local Government Finances program does not collect revenue data for it independently.

Last Modified Date: February 16, 2023