Economic News Release

International Comparisons of Manufacturing Productivity and Unit Labor Cost Trends, 2011


For release 10:00 a.m. (EST) Thursday, December 6, 2012             USDL-12-2365

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, 2011

Manufacturing productivity increased in 2011 in 15 of 19 countries covered, 
the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Labor productivity (output 
per hour) rose by more than 2 percent in the majority of countries (see chart 
1). These productivity increases were generally driven by gains in output 
coupled with modest changes in hours (see chart 2). 

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

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Chart 1. Percent changes in manufacturing output per hour, 2010-2011

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Chart 2. Percent changes in manufacturing output and hours, 2010-2011

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In 2011, only the United Kingdom had larger productivity growth in 
manufacturing than in the previous year; in all other countries, productivity 
growth slowed down or declined. Only the Czech Republic and Singapore 
experienced productivity growth of 8 percent or higher in 2011, while in 2010 
the majority of countries experienced growth that exceeded 8 percent (see 
chart 3).

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Chart 3. Percent changes in manufacturing output per hour

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Analyze trends with interactive charts.
The Excel version of the data tables includes an interactive dashboard that 
displays charts from a custom selection of variables, countries, and time 
periods at www.bls.gov/ilc/#productivity.

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

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Unit labor costs are the cost of labor input required to produce one unit of 
output and can be denominated either in national currency units or in U.S. 
dollars. Expressed in national currency units, manufacturing unit labor costs 
increased in 2011 in about half the countries covered; Japan and Australia 
recorded the largest increases (see chart 4).

To compare unit labor costs across countries, they are generally converted 
into a common currency, in this case U.S. dollars. Changes in a country's unit 
labor costs in U.S. dollars are roughly equivalent to the change in unit labor 
costs in national currency plus the change in the value of the country's 
currency relative to the U.S. dollar (see table 3). The values of the 
currencies of all countries compared appreciated relative to the U.S. dollar 
in 2011. As a result, unit labor costs in U.S. dollars showed larger increases 
than unit labor costs expressed in national currencies.

In 16 of the countries covered, unit labor costs on a U.S. dollar basis 
increased more than in the United States, causing the U.S. manufacturing labor 
cost competitiveness to increase relative to these countries. The United 
States improved its competiveness the most against Australia and Japan due to 
the large appreciation of their respective currencies against the U.S. dollar. 
However, U.S. labor cost competitiveness deteriorated relative to the Republic 
of Korea and the Czech Republic. 

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Chart 4. Percent changes in manufacturing unit labor costs, 2010-2011

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The PDF version of the news release

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Last Modified Date: December 06, 2012
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