Labor Productivity and Costs

Industry Hours and Employment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes indexes and levels of annual hours and employment for all 3- and 4-digit NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) industries and the government sector. Hours and employment data also are available for 2-digit NAICS industries that are equivalent to 3-digit industries and for other NAICS industries for which industry productivity measures are published. Data are updated annually and revised during the year, as needed, in conjunction with the Productivity and Costs by Industry news releases and are available from 1987 forward.

Industry labor input measures are developed mainly from data collected by BLS. Data from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, a monthly establishment survey conducted by BLS, are supplemented with data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly household survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for BLS, along with data from the BLS National Compensation Survey (NCS), an establishment survey of employee salaries, wages, and benefits. Data on employment and average weekly hours are used to construct measures of total annual hours for various categories of workers. Employment and hours of all persons include those of paid employees, the self-employed (partners and proprietors), and unpaid family workers. Annual estimates are calculated separately for each category of worker as the product of employment, average weekly hours, and the number of paid weeks per year and are then summed for each industry.

The primary source of data on paid employees is the CES survey. The survey collects monthly data on total paid employment by industry, as well as data on employment and average weekly hours for production workers in goods-producing industries and for nonsupervisory workers in service-providing industries. The CES survey counts jobs; persons employed by two or more establishments, and their hours, are counted at each place of employment. Persons are considered employed if they receive pay for any part of the specified pay period. (See “Current Employment Statistics - CES (National).”)

The hours series developed from the CES survey include hours for which an employee is paid but is absent from a job (e.g., paid holidays, sick leave and vacation time). Since this time is not available for the production of a good or performance of a service, BLS excludes it when measuring productivity. Ratios of hours at work to hours-paid, developed from information on employer leave practices in the NCS, are used to remove these paid leave hours from the data for the period 1996 to present. (See “National Compensation Survey”). Ratios for years prior to 1996 are based on data from the BLS Hours at Work Survey. These ratios are applied to the paid hours data to derive estimates of hours at work, by industry.

Although the CES program now collects information on the paid hours of all employees, it historically has provided time series of average weekly hours for production and nonsupervisory workers only. The industry productivity program uses data from the CPS, together with the CES data, to derive average weekly hours for nonproduction and supervisory workers back to 1987. (See “Construction of Average Weekly Hours for Supervisory and Nonproduction Wage and Salary Workers in Detailed Industries.”)

Because CES data cover only wage and salary employees, CPS data also are used to estimate the number of self-employed workers and of unpaid family workers, as well as their hours. The CPS counts persons, not jobs, but separate statistics by industry and class of worker are available for both primary and secondary jobs. (See “Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.”) The data for primary and secondary jobs are processed separately in order to accurately assign estimates of self-employed and unpaid family workers and their hours to the proper industry.

CES and CPS data are available for most 3- and 4-digit NAICS industries. BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) data or Census Bureau nonemployer or small-firm data are used together with CES and CPS data, when needed, to derive detailed industry estimates. Hours of all persons are directly aggregated for each industry, with no distinction made between the hours of different groups of employees. The industry labor input indexes are developed by dividing aggregate hours for each year by the base-period aggregate.

Although the labor input measures for most industries reflect the data sources and methods discussed in the preceding paragraphs, measures for some industries are constructed from alternative data sources. Estimates of employment and hours for industries in the farm sector are based on data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Measures for industries in the nonfarm agriculture sector are based primarily on data from the CPS together with data from the QCEW. For mining industries, estimates of nonproduction worker hours are derived from data collected by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. To ensure consistency with the BLS output measures, estimates of employment and hours for total air transportation and line-haul railroads are based, in part, on data from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). For line-haul railroads, data from the Association of American Railroads also are used to supplement the DOT data. Employment data for the postal service industry are from the CES survey; estimates of hours for this industry, however, are from the U.S. Postal Service. Estimates of paid employees in private households are from the QCEW.

The employment and hours measures reflect the data sources and methods underlying the labor input series used for the industry productivity and cost measures. Industries correspond to the 2007 NAICS industry categories. Indexes of employment and hours of all persons by industry and levels of annual employment and hours are available on the BLS website. (See “ Industry Hours and Employment.”)

Last Modified Date: May 1, 2014

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