Manufacturing unit labor costs fell in 2002 in U.S., Canada, Taiwan

April 01, 2004

Taiwan had the largest unit labor cost decline in 2002 (in U.S. dollar terms). The United States and Canada were the only other economies among the 14 studied with a decline in unit labor costs in 2002.

Manufacturing unit labor costs (U.S. dollar basis), selected countries or areas, percent change, 2001-2002
[Chart data—TXT]

In 2002, the U.S. dollar depreciated against the currencies of most countries in this comparison, particularly against the Norwegian krone. This depreciation reversed a seven-year trend when the U.S. dollar recorded annual average appreciation against most other currencies.

Because of the dollar's depreciation, the unit labor costs of all European countries and of Korea increased more when expressed in U.S. dollars than in national currencies. In Sweden, a krona-denominated 4.1-percent decline in unit labor costs changed to a 2.0-percent increase in dollar terms when exchange rates were taken into account.

The European increases in dollar-denominated unit labor costs were all well above the average annual rates of increase since 1979. The increase in Korean unit labor costs, expressed in U.S. dollars, was the largest since 1995.

These data are from the Foreign Labor Statistics program. This article updates an item that appeared in The Editor’s Desk in 2003: "Manufacturing unit labor costs lower in 2002 in U.S., Japan, Taiwan". For more information, see news release, "International Comparisons of Manufacturing Productivity and Unit Labor Cost Trends, Revised Data for 2002" (PDF) (TXT), USDL 04-488. Unit labor costs are defined as the cost of labor input required to produce one unit of output. They are computed as labor compensation in nominal terms divided by real output.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Manufacturing unit labor costs fell in 2002 in U.S., Canada, Taiwan on the Internet at (visited September 25, 2016).


Recent editions of Spotlight on Statistics

  • A look at healthcare spending, employment, pay, benefits, and prices
    As one of the largest U.S. industries, healthcare is steadily growing to meet the needs of an increasing population with an increasing life expectancy. This Spotlight looks at how much people spend on healthcare, current and projected employment in the industry, employer-provided healthcare benefits, healthcare prices, and pay for workers in healthcare occupations.

  • Employment and Wages in Healthcare Occupations
    Healthcare occupations are a significant percentage of U.S. employment. Some of the largest and highest paying occupations are in healthcare. This Spotlight examines employment and wages for healthcare occupations.

  • Fifty years of looking at changes in peoples lives
    Longitudinal surveys help us understand long-term changes, such as how events that happened when a person was in high school affect labor market success as an adult.