U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Last Modified Date: August 29, 2013
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 compensation per
hour and real output per hour (labor productivity). Increases in hourly compensation increase unit labor
costs; increases in labor productivity offset hourly compensation increases and lower unit labor costs.
Labor Compensation: Labor 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