Economic News Release

International Comparisons of Manufacturing Productivity and Unit Labor Cost Trends News Release




For release 10:00 a.m. (EST) Tuesday, December 21, 2010          USDL-10-1749

Technical Information: (202) 691-5654     ilchelp@bls.gov     www.bls.gov/ilc
Media Contact:         (202) 691-5902     PressOffice@bls.gov

INTERNATIONAL COMPARISONS OF MANUFACTURING PRODUCTIVITY 
AND UNIT LABOR COST TRENDS, 2009

Manufacturing labor productivity decreased in 2009 in 12 of the 19 economies 
compared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The United States had the largest 
productivity increase, 7.7 percent, and Japan had the steepest productivity 
decline, -11.4 percent (see chart 1). For the first time, both output and 
hours in manufacturing declined in all 19 economies compared. In most 
economies, output declined by more than 10 percent and hours by more than 
8 percent (see chart 2).

The data presented for the United States differ from those in the BLS 
Productivity and Costs news release. (See technical notes.)

PRINTED COPY CONTAINS CHART AT THIS POINT:
Chart 1. Percent changes in manufacturing output per hour, 2008-2009

PRINTED COPY CONTAINS CHART AT THIS POINT:
Chart 2. Percent changes in manufacturing output and hours, 2008-2009

- 2 -

The trends in manufacturing for 2009 stand in contrast to the trends seen over 
the last 30 years. Between 1979 and 2009, labor productivity and output 
increased in all economies compared in this report (see chart 3 and chart 4). 
In addition, the average annual declines in hours in most economies over the 
last 30 years were smaller than the declines in hours from 2008 to 2009 (see 
chart 4).

PRINTED COPY CONTAINS CHART AT THIS POINT:
Chart 3. Average annual percent changes in manufacturing output per hour, 
1979-2009

PRINTED COPY CONTAINS CHART AT THIS POINT:
Chart 4. Average annual percent changes in manufacturing output and hours, 
1979-2009
    
BOX: Changes in this news release

Changes in this news release

New country estimates for the Czech Republic and Finland: For the first time, 
this news release includes data for the Czech Republic and Finland. Data for 
both countries follow internationally accepted standards for national accounts 
and for industrial classification.

Additional indicators in the supplementary tables: Growth rates for average 
hours, employment, and hourly compensation are no longer shown in this news 
release.  These data are available in the supplementary tables at 
http://www.bls.gov/ilc/prodsuppt.xls.

Trade-weighted data: The chart and table with data on trade-weighted unit 
labor cost trends are no longer included in this news release. 
    
END OF BOX: Changes in this news release

- 3 -

Unit labor costs are the cost of labor input required to produce one unit of 
output and can be expressed either in national currency units or in U.S. 
dollars. Expressed in national currency units, manufacturing unit labor costs 
increased in all but 4 economies compared in 2009, with the largest increases 
in Germany and Finland (see chart 5). However, due to the strength of the U.S. 
dollar, which appreciated against all currencies except the Japanese yen, unit 
labor costs converted to U.S. dollars decreased in 12 of the foreign economies.

In 2009, U.S. manufacturing labor cost competitiveness declined relative to 10 
economies because unit labor costs on a U.S. dollar basis decreased more in 
those economies than in the United States. U.S. labor cost competitiveness 
improved relative to the other 8 foreign economies. In Japan, a large increase 
in national currency unit labor costs and a strong yen combined to push unit 
labor costs up more than 20 percent on a U.S. dollar basis.

PRINTED COPY CONTAINS CHART AT THIS POINT:
Chart 5. Percent changes in manufacturing unit labor costs, 2008-2009

Send us your inquiries or feedback.
We appreciate your inquiries and feedback. Feel free to email ILCHelp@bls.gov 
or call (202) 691-5654.

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subject line.

Find additional data.
The data tables with annual indexes and growth rates back to 1950 used to 
prepare this report are available at http://www.bls.gov/ilc/#productivity.





 

Table 1. Output per hour, output, and hours

Manufacturing, 19 countries or areas, 1979–2009
Average annual rates of change

Country or area

Indicator

1979–2009 1979–1990 1990–2000 2000–2007 2007–2008 2008–2009

United States

Output per hour

4.2

3.0

4.3

6.2

0.4

7.7

Output

2.6

2.3

4.2

2.9

-3.6

-5.9

Hours

-1.6

-0.6

-0.1

-3.1

-4.0

-12.6

Australia

Output per hour

2.0

2.1

1.9

2.4

-3.1

4.4

Output

1.3

1.6

1.5

1.6

-1.1

-2.3

Hours

-0.6

-0.5

-0.4

-0.8

2.0

-6.5

Belgium

Output per hour

3.0

4.2

2.8

2.1

1.0

1.5

Output

1.3

2.6

1.5

0.8

-0.3

-8.8

Hours

-1.7

-1.6

-1.2

-1.2

-1.3

-10.2

Canada

Output per hour

2.1

2.1

3.6

0.8

-2.4

0.9

Output

1.3

1.9

4.2

-0.6

-6.1

-11.3

Hours

-0.8

-0.2

0.5

-1.4

-3.7

-12.1

Czech Republic

Output per hour

NA

NA

NA

7.4

6.4

-3.3

Output

NA

NA

NA

7.4

7.8

-11.9

Hours

NA

NA

NA

0.0

1.4

-8.8

Denmark

Output per hour

2.3

2.2

2.3

3.0

2.6

-1.4

Output

0.9

1.3

1.9

0.6

3.7

-12.1

Hours

-1.4

-1.0

-0.4

-2.4

1.1

-10.9

Finland

Output per hour

5.3

4.9

6.4

6.8

1.2

-8.5

Output

3.7

3.5

5.4

6.1

-0.1

-19.9

Hours

-1.5

-1.4

-1.0

-0.7

-1.2

-12.5

France

Output per hour

3.2

3.8

4.0

3.1

-0.9

-7.2

Output

1.0

1.5

2.0

1.1

-2.1

-11.2

Hours

-2.1

-2.2

-1.9

-2.0

-1.1

-4.3

Germany

Output per hour

2.3

2.1

3.3

3.5

-0.2

-9.3

Output

0.5

1.2

0.6

2.1

0.5

-18.2

Hours

-1.8

-0.9

-2.6

-1.3

0.7

-9.8

Italy

Output per hour

1.9

3.4

2.6

0.3

-3.6

-5.9

Output

0.7

2.6

1.4

0.3

-4.9

-15.8

Hours

-1.1

-0.8

-1.2

-0.1

-1.3

-10.5

Japan

Output per hour

3.0

3.8

3.4

3.8

0.3

-11.4

Output

1.6

4.7

0.8

2.3

-3.0

-22.0

Hours

-1.4

0.9

-2.4

-1.4

-3.3

-11.9

Korea, Republic of

Output per hour

NA

NA

10.5

8.1

0.7

1.8

Output

8.4

10.8

8.4

6.8

2.9

-1.6

Hours

NA

NA

-1.9

-1.1

2.1

-3.4

Netherlands

Output per hour

3.0

3.3

3.5

3.7

-2.2

-4.4

Output

1.8

2.4

2.7

1.9

-1.9

-8.8

Hours

-1.1

-0.9

-0.8

-1.7

0.3

-4.5

Norway

Output per hour

1.7

1.9

0.7

3.0

0.9

0.8

Output

0.7

-0.5

1.0

2.6

2.6

-5.8

Hours

-1.0

-2.3

0.3

-0.3

1.7

-6.5

Singapore

Output per hour

4.0

4.0

7.2

2.0

-9.3

-0.3

Output

6.1

7.3

7.4

5.5

-4.2

-4.1

Hours

2.1

3.2

0.2

3.5

5.7

-3.9

Spain

Output per hour

2.2

3.3

2.0

1.9

-1.5

-0.8

Output

1.4

2.1

2.8

1.2

-2.7

-13.6

Hours

-0.8

-1.2

0.8

-0.6

-1.3

-12.9

Sweden

Output per hour

4.0

2.1

6.4

6.4

-3.0

-7.3

Output

2.9

1.7

5.7

5.0

-2.9

-18.0

Hours

-1.1

-0.4

-0.6

-1.4

0.1

-11.5

Taiwan

Output per hour

6.0

6.3

5.0

7.6

1.6

4.8

Output

6.0

7.5

5.0

7.2

1.0

-4.4

Hours

0.0

1.2

-0.1

-0.4

-0.6

-8.7

United Kingdom

Output per hour

3.3

4.1

2.9

4.1

0.2

-3.4

Output

0.2

0.9

0.9

0.0

-2.9

-10.8

Hours

-3.1

-3.1

-2.0

-3.9

-3.1

-7.6

NOTE: German data for years before 1991 pertain to the former West Germany.
NA=data not available.


Table 2. Unit labor costs (ULC) in national currency, compensation, and output

Manufacturing, 19 countries or areas, 1979–2009
Average annual rates of change

Country or area

Indicator

1979–2009 1979–1990 1990–2000 2000–2007 2007–2008 2008–2009

United States

ULC in nat. cur.

0.3

2.5

-0.4

-2.3

3.5

-2.3

Compensation

2.9

4.9

3.8

0.6

-0.2

-8.0

Output

2.6

2.3

4.2

2.9

-3.6

-5.9

Australia

ULC in nat. cur.

NA

NA

1.7

3.0

4.5

4.9

Compensation

NA

NA

3.2

4.6

3.4

2.4

Output

1.3

1.6

1.5

1.6

-1.1

-2.3

Belgium

ULC in nat. cur.

1.1

1.8

0.2

0.7

2.3

5.0

Compensation

2.4

4.4

1.6

1.6

1.9

-4.3

Output

1.3

2.6

1.5

0.8

-0.3

-8.8

Canada

ULC in nat. cur.

2.3

4.6

-0.3

2.9

2.7

-1.2

Compensation

3.6

6.5

3.8

2.2

-3.5

-12.3

Output

1.3

1.9

4.2

-0.6

-6.1

-11.3

Czech Republic

ULC in nat. cur.

NA

NA

NA

-0.2

-1.4

2.2

Compensation

NA

NA

NA

7.2

6.4

-9.9

Output

NA

NA

NA

7.4

7.8

-11.9

Denmark

ULC in nat. cur.

2.9

5.7

0.7

1.9

-0.3

4.3

Compensation

3.8

7.0

2.5

2.4

3.4

-8.4

Output

0.9

1.3

1.9

0.6

3.7

-12.1

Finland

ULC in nat. cur.

1.2

5.5

-2.0

-2.9

3.3

13.9

Compensation

4.9

9.2

3.3

3.0

3.3

-8.8

Output

3.7

3.5

5.4

6.1

-0.1

-19.9

France

ULC in nat. cur.

2.2

5.1

-0.4

0.4

3.7

9.7

Compensation

3.2

6.7

1.6

1.4

1.6

-2.6

Output

1.0

1.5

2.0

1.1

-2.1

-11.2

Germany

ULC in nat. cur.

2.0

3.3

1.4

-1.3

2.8

15.8

Compensation

2.4

4.6

2.0

0.8

3.3

-5.3

Output

0.5

1.2

0.6

2.1

0.5

-18.2

Italy

ULC in nat. cur.

5.0

8.8

1.7

2.8

7.2

12.0

Compensation

5.8

11.6

3.2

3.0

2.0

-5.7

Output

0.7

2.6

1.4

0.3

-4.9

-15.8

Japan

ULC in nat. cur.

-0.5

0.7

-0.9

-3.8

1.6

11.8

Compensation

1.1

5.5

-0.1

-1.5

-1.5

-12.8

Output

1.6

4.7

0.8

2.3

-3.0

-22.0

Korea, Republic of

ULC in nat. cur.

4.2

7.9

2.6

1.6

0.1

3.8

Compensation

12.9

19.5

11.3

8.5

3.0

2.2

Output

8.4

10.8

8.4

6.8

2.9

-1.6

Netherlands

ULC in nat. cur.

0.9

0.8

0.4

0.0

6.2

8.4

Compensation

2.7

3.2

3.1

1.8

4.2

-1.1

Output

1.8

2.4

2.7

1.9

-1.9

-8.8

Norway

ULC in nat. cur.

4.5

6.9

3.5

2.0

4.7

4.7

Compensation

5.2

6.4

4.6

4.6

7.4

-1.4

Output

0.7

-0.5

1.0

2.6

2.6

-5.8

Singapore

ULC in nat. cur.

0.8

3.7

-1.5

-1.1

11.5

-4.0

Compensation

7.0

11.3

5.8

4.4

6.9

-8.0

Output

6.1

7.3

7.4

5.5

-4.2

-4.1

Spain

ULC in nat. cur.

4.7

7.8

2.7

2.5

7.1

2.9

Compensation

6.1

10.1

5.5

3.8

4.2

-11.2

Output

1.4

2.1

2.8

1.2

-2.7

-13.6

Sweden

ULC in nat. cur.

1.7

6.6

-2.2

-2.2

6.4

12.2

Compensation

4.6

8.4

3.4

2.7

3.3

-8.0

Output

2.9

1.7

5.7

5.0

-2.9

-18.0

Taiwan

ULC in nat. cur.

0.9

5.5

0.2

-3.8

0.9

-7.4

Compensation

6.9

13.5

5.2

3.1

1.9

-11.5

Output

6.0

7.5

5.0

7.2

1.0

-4.4

United Kingdom

ULC in nat. cur.

3.2

6.2

1.5

0.9

1.8

6.3

Compensation

3.4

7.1

2.4

0.9

-1.1

-5.1

Output

0.2

0.9

0.9

0.0

-2.9

-10.8

NOTE: German data for years before 1991 pertain to the former West Germany.
NA=data not available.


Table 3. Unit labor costs (ULC) in U.S. dollars and in national currency

Manufacturing, 19 countries or areas, 1979–2009
Average annual rates of change

Country or area

Indicator

1979–2009 1979–1990 1990–2000 2000–2007 2007–2008 2008–2009

United States

ULC in U.S. dollars

0.3

2.5

-0.4

-2.3

3.5

-2.3

ULC in nat. cur.

0.3

2.5

-0.4

-2.3

3.5

-2.3

Exchange rates

Australia

ULC in U.S. dollars

NA

NA

-1.3

8.5

6.3

-2.6

ULC in nat. cur.

NA

NA

1.7

3.0

4.5

4.9

Exchange rates

-1.1

-3.2

-2.9

5.4

1.7

-7.1

Belgium

ULC in U.S. dollars

1.1

0.6

-2.5

6.6

9.8

-0.7

ULC in nat. cur.

1.1

1.8

0.2

0.7

2.3

5.0

Exchange rates

0.0

-1.2

-2.6

5.8

7.4

-5.4

Canada

ULC in U.S. dollars

2.4

4.6

-2.7

7.7

3.5

-7.7

ULC in nat. cur.

2.3

4.6

-0.3

2.9

2.7

-1.2

Exchange rates

0.1

0.0

-2.4

4.8

0.7

-6.6

Czech Republic

ULC in U.S. dollars

NA

NA

NA

9.2

18.7

-9.9

ULC in nat. cur.

NA

NA

NA

-0.2

-1.4

2.2

Exchange rates

NA

NA

NA

9.4

20.3

-11.9

Denmark

ULC in U.S. dollars

2.8

4.1

-2.0

7.8

6.6

-0.9

ULC in nat. cur.

2.9

5.7

0.7

1.9

-0.3

4.3

Exchange rates

-0.1

-1.5

-2.6

5.8

6.9

-5.0

Finland

ULC in U.S. dollars

0.9

5.7

-7.0

2.7

11.0

7.8

ULC in nat. cur.

1.2

5.5

-2.0

-2.9

3.3

13.9

Exchange rates

-0.3

0.2

-5.1

5.8

7.4

-5.4

France

ULC in U.S. dollars

1.9

2.7

-3.0

6.2

11.4

3.8

ULC in nat. cur.

2.2

5.1

-0.4

0.4

3.7

9.7

Exchange rates

-0.3

-2.2

-2.6

5.8

7.4

-5.4

Germany

ULC in U.S. dollars

2.9

4.5

-1.3

4.4

10.4

9.6

ULC in nat. cur.

2.0

3.3

1.4

-1.3

2.8

15.8

Exchange rates

0.9

1.1

-2.7

5.8

7.4

-5.4

Italy

ULC in U.S. dollars

3.2

5.2

-3.8

8.7

15.2

6.0

ULC in nat. cur.

5.0

8.8

1.7

2.8

7.2

12.0

Exchange rates

-1.7

-3.3

-5.4

5.8

7.4

-5.4

Japan

ULC in U.S. dollars

2.3

4.6

2.1

-5.0

15.7

23.3

ULC in nat. cur.

-0.5

0.7

-0.9

-3.8

1.6

11.8

Exchange rates

2.9

3.8

3.0

-1.3

13.9

10.4

Korea, Republic of

ULC in U.S. dollars

0.9

4.1

-2.0

4.5

-15.3

-10.5

ULC in nat. cur.

4.2

7.9

2.6

1.6

0.1

3.8

Exchange rates

-3.2

-3.4

-4.5

2.8

-15.4

-13.8

Netherlands

ULC in U.S. dollars

1.7

1.7

-2.3

5.8

14.0

2.6

ULC in nat. cur.

0.9

0.8

0.4

0.0

6.2

8.4

Exchange rates

0.8

0.9

-2.7

5.8

7.4

-5.4

Norway

ULC in U.S. dollars

3.7

4.9

0.0

8.1

8.7

-6.2

ULC in nat. cur.

4.5

6.9

3.5

2.0

4.7

4.7

Exchange rates

-0.7

-1.9

-3.4

6.0

3.9

-10.4

Singapore

ULC in U.S. dollars

2.2

5.5

-1.0

0.8

18.8

-6.7

ULC in nat. cur.

0.8

3.7

-1.5

-1.1

11.5

-4.0

Exchange rates

1.4

1.7

0.5

2.0

6.5

-2.8

Spain

ULC in U.S. dollars

2.7

3.8

-3.0

8.5

15.0

-2.7

ULC in nat. cur.

4.7

7.8

2.7

2.5

7.1

2.9

Exchange rates

-1.9

-3.7

-5.5

5.8

7.4

-5.4

Sweden

ULC in U.S. dollars

-0.3

3.5

-6.4

2.2

9.1

-3.5

ULC in nat. cur.

1.7

6.6

-2.2

-2.2

6.4

12.2

Exchange rates

-1.9

-2.9

-4.3

4.5

2.6

-14.0

Taiwan

ULC in U.S. dollars

1.2

8.3

-1.3

-4.5

5.1

-11.6

ULC in nat. cur.

0.9

5.5

0.2

-3.8

0.9

-7.4

Exchange rates

0.3

2.7

-1.5

-0.7

4.2

-4.5

United Kingdom

ULC in U.S. dollars

2.2

4.5

-0.2

4.9

-5.7

-10.2

ULC in nat. cur.

3.2

6.2

1.5

0.9

1.8

6.3

Exchange rates

-1.0

-1.6

-1.6

4.1

-7.4

-15.6

NOTE: German data for years before 1991 pertain to the former West Germany.
NA=data not available.
Exchange rates are value of foreign currency relative to the U.S. dollar.




- 7 -

Technical notes

The comparisons in this release are based on data available to the Bureau of 
Labor Statistics as of November 4 from national statistical offices of the 19 
economies compared. Below is a summary of the concepts used in this release. 
For more detailed information, see http://www.bls.gov/ilc/#productivity. 

Definitions. Labor productivity is defined as real output per hour worked. 
Unit labor costs are defined as the cost of labor input required to produce 
one unit of output, and are computed as compensation in nominal terms divided 
by real output.

Methodology. In general, the measures relate to total manufacturing as defined 
by the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC). Data for the 
United States and Canada are in accordance with the North American Industry 
Classification System (NAICS), except for compensation data for the United 
States before 1987. For all economies, the measures are prepared according to 
the United Nations System of National Accounts 1993 (SNA 93) for the most 
recent years. For earlier years, data were compiled according to other systems 
of national accounts.

BLS constructs the trends in this release from three basic measures: output, 
total labor hours, and total compensation. In general, the output measures are 
real value added. Total labor hours refer to hours worked by all employed 
persons. Total compensation includes employer expenditures for direct pay, 
employer social insurance expenditures, and labor-related taxes and subsidies. 

Output for the United States. The U.S. manufacturing output series used in 
this release differs from the manufacturing output series that BLS publishes 
as part of its major sector productivity and costs measures for the United 
States.(1) The international labor comparisons program uses a value added output 
concept, while the major sector series is on a sectoral output basis, which is 
gross output less intra-sector sales and transfers. Even though BLS has 
determined that sectoral output is the correct concept for U.S. measures of 
productivity, there are other considerations that make value added the better 
concept for international comparisons of labor productivity, such as 
differences among economies in the extent of vertical integration of 
industries and the availability of value added data.

Level Comparisons. The BLS measures are limited to trend comparisons. BLS does 
not prepare level comparisons of manufacturing productivity because of data 
limitations and technical problems in comparing the levels of manufacturing 
output among economies.


1. For more information about sectoral output, see http://www.bls.gov/lpc/.
 
 


 

Last Modified Date: December 21, 2010
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