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Productivity

Overview

Mission

The BLS productivity program produces high quality productivity data and analysis and facilitates BLS collaboration with the international statistical community. Through continuous improvement and research, we ensure that our measures remain accurate, objective, timely, and relevant for the everchanging U.S. economy.

What is productivity?

Productivity measures how efficiently the U.S. converts inputs into the outputs of goods and services.  Measures of labor productivity compare the growth in output to the growth in hours worked and measures of total factor productivity (TFP), also known as multifactor productivity (MFP), compare growth in output to the growth in a combination of inputs that include labor, capital, energy, materials, and purchased services.

Labor productivity measures reflect the growth in output that is not a result of adding additional labor hours.  These other factors may include changes in: the use of machinery, capital and other nonlabor inputs; the education and experience of the work-force; managerial skills; work processes; the direct and indirect effects of research and development; the allocation of resources across industries; and advances in technology.  Total factor productivity measures reflect the growth in output that is not a result of adding more measured inputs (i.e., hours, capital, or purchased energy, materials or services).  These measures assess the economy’s ability to expand output without additional inputs and thus its ability to increase living standards and improve competitiveness. 

These measures are used in economic analysis, public and private decision-making, and forecasting and analysis of prices, wages, and economic growth. Measures of total factor productivity are useful for studying the sources of labor productivity growth and understanding the substitution between labor and nonlabor inputs - capital and intermediate purchases - over time.

Comparisons among productivity measures must be made with an understanding of the underlying definitions used in constructing each measure.  The productivity measures produced by the BLS use two distinct concepts of real output which are characterized as value-added and sectoral output. For business sectors, a value-added measure is used; while for manufacturing and industry measures a sectoral output measure is used.

What data are available?

Quarterly labor productivity measures:

  • Business and nonfarm business sectors; quarterly and annual measures from 1947 forward
  • Nonfinancial corporations; quarterly and annual measures from 1959 forward
  • Manufacturing sector; quarterly and annual measures from 1987 forward

Annual labor productivity measures:

  • Industry measures for 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6- digit North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) industries from 1987 forward

    Comprehensive coverage is available in mining, utilities, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, and accommodation and food services.  Measures are also provided for selected industries in transportation and warehousing, information, finance and insurance, real estate and rental and leasing, professional and technical services, administrative and support services, health care and social services, and other services.

  • State-level measures for private nonfarm sector from 1987 forward

Annual total factor productivity measures:

  • Private business and private nonfarm business sectors measures from 1987 forward
  • Manufacturing sector and 61 three-digit NAICS industry measures from 1987 forward
  • 4-digit NAICS manufacturing industries, air transportation, and line-haul railroads measures from 1987 forward
  • BEA/BLS Integrated Production Accounts for the Economy

Other measures:

  • Unit labor costs and hourly compensation
  • Hours, employment and capital
  • Measures of within-industry dispersion