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December, 2001, Vol. 124, No. 12
Labor productivity in the retail trade industry, 1987–99Mark Sieling, Brian Friedman, and Mark Dumas
Retail trade employed 22.8 million persons in 1999 and generated sales of nearly $3 trillion. The large size of the retail sector results in a high degree of interest in monthly and especially holiday retail sales and makes the performance of this sector important to the overall health of the U.S. economy. In addition, it has been suggested that "the retail sector . . . is particularly important in creating jobs for groups with high unemployment levels, employing relatively large numbers of women, young people and the people with little education. It is also a major provider of part-time work."1
The retail sector is a competitive and dynamic part of the U.S. economy. Retail stores offer goods bundled with services such as store location, product assortment, timely delivery, product education, and store ambience.2 Differing retail store formats have evolved offering varying degrees of these services.3
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1 Martin Neil Baily and Eric Zitzewitz, "Service Sector Productivity Comparisons: Lessons for Measurement," in Charles R. Hulten, Edwin R. Dean, and Michael J. Harper, eds., New Developments in Productivity Analysis (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2001), pp. 419–64; quote, p. 434.
2 Roger R. Betancourt and David A. Gautschi, "The Output of Retail Activities: Concepts, Measurement and Evidence from U.S. Census Data, The Review of Economics and Statistics, May 1993.
3 Walter Oi, "Retailing in a Dynamic Economy," paper presented at the Output and Productivity Measurement in the Service Sector Workshop, The Brookings Institution, Sept 18, 1998.
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