Economic News Release

Productivity and Costs: Wholesale Trade, Retail Trade, Food Services, and Drinking Places Industries News Release


For release 10:00 a.m. (EDT) Thursday, August 30, 2012                                          USDL-12-1762

Technical Information:	(202) 691-5618  •  dipsweb@bls.gov  •  www.bls.gov/lpc 
Media Contact:          (202) 691-5902  •  PressOffice@bls.gov


                   PRODUCTIVITY AND COSTS BY INDUSTRY: WHOLESALE TRADE, RETAIL TRADE, AND 
                             FOOD SERVICES AND DRINKING PLACES INDUSTRIES, 2011

Labor productivity - defined as output per hour - rose 1.9 percent in wholesale trade, 2.2 percent in 
retail trade and was unchanged in food services and drinking places in 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor 
Statistics reported today. Productivity growth was lower in all three sectors in 2011 compared to 2010. 
Output increased in all three sectors, and grew more rapidly in retail trade and in food services and 
drinking places in 2011 than in 2010. Notably, hours also rose in all three sectors in 2011, after falling in 
wholesale trade and in food services and drinking places in 2010. 
 
Unit labor costs, which reflect the total labor costs required to produce a unit of output, rose in 
wholesale trade and in food services and drinking places in 2011, but fell in retail trade. (See table 1.) In 
2010, unit labor costs declined in wholesale trade and in retail trade and grew in food services and 
drinking places.

Productivity increased in 33 of the 50 detailed industries in 2011, compared to 41 industries in 2010. 
Output grew in 39 industries and hours increased in 33. In the previous year, output rose in 42 industries, 
while hours grew in 19. Unit labor costs fell in 27 industries in 2011, compared to 31 in 2010.

In wholesale trade, labor productivity rose 1.9 percent as output grew 4.8 percent and hours increased 
2.9 percent. Productivity grew 6.3 percent in durable goods, but fell 1.1 percent in nondurable goods. 
Output per hour increased in all but one of the durable goods industries but in only one of the 
nondurable goods industries. Output grew in 13 of the 19 wholesale trade industries and hours rose in 
15. Productivity increased most rapidly in machinery and supplies wholesalers, where output rose more 
than in any other wholesale trade industry. Unit labor costs declined in 9 industries.

In retail trade, labor productivity grew 2.2 percent - faster than in the other sectors presented here - as 
output increased 3.7 percent and hours rose 1.5 percent. Output per hour increased in 21 of the 27 
detailed retail trade industries in 2011. Output grew in 23 industries and hours rose in 16. The largest 
productivity increases were in florists and vending machine operators, both of which recorded rapid 
declines in hours. Unit labor costs fell in 17 industries.

In food services and drinking places, labor productivity recorded no change, as output and hours both 
grew 3.4 percent. Output per hour rose in three of the four detailed industries in this sector, but fell in 
limited-service eating places, where hours grew at a rate nearly double that of output. Output increased 
in three industries and hours grew in two. Unit labor costs rose in three of the four industries.

Over the longer term (1987 to 2011), productivity growth in the wholesale trade, retail trade, and food 
services and drinking places sectors advanced more rapidly than in 2011. From 1987 to 2011, output per 
hour increased 3.1 percent in wholesale trade, 2.8 percent in retail trade, and 0.6 percent in food services 
and drinking places.	 Between 1987 and 2011, unit labor costs rose in wholesale trade and in food 
services and drinking places, but were unchanged in retail trade. (See table 2.)

From 1987 to 2011, productivity rose in 45 of the 50 detailed industries, more than in 2011. Unit labor 
costs fell in 16 of the detailed industries over the period.

Year-to-year movements in industry productivity may be erratic, particularly in smaller industries. The 
annual measures based on sample data may differ from measures generated by a census of 
establishments in the industry. Annual changes in an industry’s output and use of labor may reflect 
cyclical changes in the economy as well as long-term trends. As a result, long-term productivity trends 
tend to be more reliable indicators of industry performance than year-to-year changes. 

Industry labor productivity measures are updated as data become available.  Productivity measures for 
industries in other sectors can be accessed on the BLS Labor Productivity and Costs web site at 
www.bls.gov/lpc.


                                             Technical Note  

Labor Productivity: The industry labor productivity measures describe the relationship between 
industry output and the labor time involved in its production. They show the changes from period to 
period in the amount of goods and services produced per hour. Although the labor productivity measures 
relate output to hours of all persons in an industry, they do not measure the specific contribution of labor 
or any other factor of production. Rather, they reflect the joint effects of many influences, including 
changes in technology; capital investment; utilization of capacity, energy, and materials; the use of 
purchased services inputs, including contract employment services; the organization of production; 
managerial skill; and the characteristics and effort of the workforce.
      
Output: Industry output is measured as an annual-weighted index of the changes in the various products 
or services (in real terms) provided for sale outside the industry. Real industry output is derived by 
deflating nominal sales using BLS price indexes. Industry output measures are constructed primarily 
using data from the economic censuses and annual surveys of the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department 
of Commerce, together with information on price changes primarily from BLS. 
      
Labor Hours: The primary source of industry employment and hours data is the BLS Current 
Employment Statistics (CES) survey. The CES provides monthly data on the number of total and 
nonsupervisory worker jobs held by wage and salary workers in nonfarm establishments, as well as data 
on the average weekly hours of nonsupervisory workers in those establishments. CES data are 
supplemented with data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) to estimate employment and hours 
of self-employed and unpaid family workers in each industry. Data from the CPS, together with the 
CES data, are also used to estimate the historical average weekly hours of supervisory workers for each 
industry. CES and CPS data are supplemented or further disaggregated for some industries using data 
from the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), the Census Bureau, or other 
sources. Hours of all persons in an industry are treated as homogeneous and are directly aggregated. 

Unit Labor Costs: 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 industry labor compensation by an 
index of real industry output. Unit labor costs also describe the relationship between hourly 
compensation and labor productivity (real output per hour) and are an indicator of inflationary pressures 
on producers. Increases in hourly compensation increase unit labor costs; increases in labor productivity 
offset compensation increases and lower unit labor costs. 

Compensation, defined as payroll plus supplemental payments, is a measure of the cost to the employer 
of securing the services of labor. Payroll includes salaries, wages, commissions, dismissal pay, bonuses, 
vacation and sick leave pay, and compensation in kind. Supplemental payments include legally required 
expenditures and payments for voluntary programs. The legally required portion consists primarily of 
Federal old age and survivors’ insurance, unemployment compensation, and workers’ compensation. 
Payments for voluntary programs include all programs not specifically required by legislation, such as the 
employer portion of private health insurance and pension plans.
      
Revisions: The measures in this news release incorporate preliminary data from the Census Bureau’s 
Annual Wholesale Trade Report (March 2012), Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey (May 2012), Annual 
Retail Trade Survey (March 2012), and the Annual Revision of the Monthly Retail and Food Services: 
Sales and Inventories (April 2012), as well as data from the Census Bureau’s Nonemployer Statistics 
(August 2012). The labor productivity and output series for all industries have been revised for 2010 and 
earlier years as a result. This news release also incorporates the annual benchmark revision of the BLS 
Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey published in February 2012. In addition, the unit labor cost 
measures incorporate preliminary data from the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (June 
2012). All of the measures for 2011 in this release are preliminary and subject to revision.

Additional Information: The industries included in this release are classified according to the 2007 
NAICS. While the rates of change reported by BLS in this news release are rounded to one decimal 
place, all industry productivity percent changes are calculated using index numbers rounded to three 
decimal places.

Industry productivity and related indexes; rates of change; and levels of industry employment, hours, 
nominal value of production and labor compensation are available on the Labor Productivity and Costs 
web site at http://www.bls.gov/lpc/. Additional information can be obtained by calling the Division of 
Industry Productivity Studies (202-691-5618) or by sending a request by e-mail to dipsweb@bls.gov. 
Information in this report will be made available to sensory-impaired individuals upon request. Voice 
phone: 202-691-5618; TDD message referral phone number: 1-800-877-8339.

To subscribe to the industry productivity program’s news releases, customers can register on the BLS 
website at https://subscriptions.bls.gov/accounts/USDOLBLS/subscriber/new.

Table 1. Percent change in output per hour, unit labor costs, and related data, 2010-2011
Industry NAICS code 2011
Employment
(thousands)
Percent change, 2010-2011
Output per hour Output Hours Labor compensation Unit labor costs

Wholesale Trade

Wholesale trade

42

5,703.9 1.9 4.8 2.9 5.4 0.5

Durable goods

423

2,846.3 6.3 9.1 2.6 6.3 -2.6

Motor vehicles and parts

4231

320.0 6.7 11.4 4.5 5.1 -5.7

Furniture and furnishings

4232

95.4 2.1 -4.2 -6.2 3.7 8.3

Lumber and construction supplies

4233

189.6 5.5 4.5 -1.0 1.5 -2.9

Commercial equipment

4234

630.5 4.1 7.5 3.3 6.0 -1.4

Metals and minerals

4235

117.6 -1.9 5.2 7.2 10.5 5.1

Electric goods

4236

312.6 5.6 7.3 1.5 5.2 -1.9

Hardware and plumbing

4237

226.7 2.9 4.3 1.4 4.1 -0.1

Machinery and supplies

4238

628.8 13.5 15.3 1.6 8.8 -5.6

Miscellaneous durable goods

4239

325.1 3.2 10.3 6.9 7.6 -2.4

Nondurable goods

424

2,013.0 -1.1 0.5 1.6 2.3 1.8

Paper and paper products

4241

122.9 -3.1 -2.1 1.1 0.9 3.0

Druggists' goods

4242

190.9 6.6 6.7 0.0 2.9 -3.5

Apparel and piece goods

4243

146.8 -5.3 -3.4 2.1 1.2 4.7

Grocery and related products

4244

745.2 -0.1 3.2 3.4 1.4 -1.8

Farm product raw materials

4245

78.7 -18.3 -16.0 2.8 7.2 27.6

Chemicals

4246

123.5 -0.4 2.4 2.8 8.7 6.2

Petroleum

4247

95.6 -0.4 -0.2 0.2 1.6 1.8

Alcoholic beverages

4248

166.7 -2.6 1.7 4.4 4.3 2.6

Miscellaneous nondurable goods

4249

342.6 -1.8 -5.0 -3.2 -0.3 4.9

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

425

844.6 -0.6 6.5 7.1 8.7 2.1

Electronic markets and agents and brokers

4251

844.6 -0.6 6.5 7.1 8.7 2.1

Retail Trade

Retail trade

44-45

15,509.9 2.2 3.7 1.5 2.9 -0.8

Motor vehicle and parts dealers

441

1,748.3 2.1 7.0 4.8 6.9 -0.2

Automobile dealers

4411

1,095.0 1.0 8.2 7.1 8.6 0.4

Other motor vehicle dealers

4412

129.9 -0.2 0.7 0.8 2.8 2.2

Auto parts, accessories, and tire stores

4413

523.4 0.1 1.3 1.2 2.9 1.6

Furniture and home furnishings stores

442

480.6 5.9 3.2 -2.5 0.0 -3.1

Furniture stores

4421

229.2 5.1 2.9 -2.1 0.2 -2.6

Home furnishings stores

4422

251.4 6.8 3.5 -3.1 -0.2 -3.6

Electronics and appliance stores

443

531.7 2.8 8.9 6.0 5.4 -3.3

Electronics and appliance stores

4431

531.7 2.8 8.9 6.0 5.4 -3.3

Building material and garden supply stores

444

1,193.8 3.3 3.1 -0.1 1.5 -1.5

Building material and supplies dealers

4441

1,039.8 3.0 2.0 -1.0 0.9 -1.1

Lawn and garden equipment and supplies stores

4442

154.0 3.5 10.0 6.3 6.7 -3.0

Food and beverage stores

445

2,925.1 1.0 1.3 0.3 0.4 -0.9

Grocery stores

4451

2,528.7 0.6 1.3 0.7 0.4 -0.8

Specialty food stores

4452

237.2 0.8 -3.3 -4.1 -3.5 -0.2

Beer, wine and liquor stores

4453

159.2 2.4 4.1 1.6 7.8 3.6

Health and personal care stores

446

1,027.4 0.0 1.5 1.5 3.2 1.6

Health and personal care stores

4461

1,027.4 0.0 1.5 1.5 3.2 1.6

Gasoline stations

447

840.7 -3.7 -3.1 0.7 1.6 4.8

Gasoline stations

4471

840.7 -3.7 -3.1 0.7 1.6 4.8

Clothing and clothing accessories stores

448

1,469.1 -0.3 3.7 4.1 2.9 -0.8

Clothing stores

4481

1,098.0 -0.7 4.1 4.8 0.9 -3.1

Shoe stores

4482

187.9 4.3 3.5 -0.8 1.7 -1.8

Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores

4483

183.2 -3.1 2.1 5.3 10.8 8.5

Sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores

451

667.3 6.5 5.5 -1.0 1.9 -3.4

Sporting goods and musical instrument stores

4511

531.3 4.7 7.4 2.5 2.6 -4.4

Book, periodical, and music stores

4512

136.0 13.4 -0.7 -12.5 -0.7 0.1

General merchandise stores

452

3,087.7 -1.5 2.1 3.6 3.2 1.1

Department stores

4521

1,546.7 -5.4 -0.9 4.8 2.5 3.4

Other general merchandise stores

4529

1,541.0 0.8 3.4 2.6 3.8 0.4

Miscellaneous store retailers

453

921.1 10.7 5.9 -4.4 -1.8 -7.3

Florists

4531

82.7 20.6 7.6 -10.8 -16.3 -22.2

Office supplies, stationery and gift stores

4532

321.0 9.3 3.9 -4.9 -5.8 -9.3

Used merchandise stores

4533

185.2 14.2 14.5 0.2 3.2 -9.8

Other miscellaneous store retailers

4539

332.2 10.5 5.3 -4.7 2.9 -2.3

Nonstore retailers

454

617.1 16.9 13.2 -3.2 5.4 -6.9

Electronic shopping and mail-order houses

4541

312.6 14.6 15.9 1.1 10.1 -5.0

Vending machine operators

4542

50.5 18.7 10.7 -6.8 4.2 -5.8

Direct selling establishments

4543

254.0 13.8 4.3 -8.4 -2.1 -6.1

Food Services and Drinking Places

Food services and drinking places

722

9,853.3 0.0 3.4 3.4 4.9 1.4

Full-service restaurants

7221

4,635.1 1.9 5.4 3.4 5.0 -0.4

Limited-service eating places

7222

4,162.6 -2.3 2.5 4.9 3.7 1.2

Special food services

7223

688.1 2.0 0.4 -1.5 8.9 8.5

Drinking places, alcoholic beverages

7224

367.5 1.8 -0.7 -2.5 3.3 4.0