Productivity in the information industry, 1987–2012

May 27, 2014

The information industry has transformed markedly over the last quarter century. The number of people using computers, the Internet, mobile phones, and other electronic devices at work, school, home, and elsewhere has grown tremendously. This transformation is apparent in BLS measures of productivity. Labor productivity in the software publishing industry grew at an average rate of 12.5 percent per year from 1987 to 2012. At the other end of the spectrum, labor productivity among newspaper publishers declined at an average annual rate of 1.0 percent over the same period.

Average annual percentage change in labor productivity, output, and hours in selected information industries, 1987-2012


Average annual percentage change in labor productivity, output, and hours in selected information industries, 1987–2012
IndustryLabor productivityOutputHours

Software publishers


Wireless telecommunications carriers


Wired telecommunications carriers


Cable and other subscription programming

Motion picture and video exhibition

Radio and television broadcasting


Periodical publishers


Book publishers


Newspaper publishers



Labor productivity is defined as an industry’s total output per hour worked. The output of software publishers grew at an average annual rate of 19.1 percent from 1987 to 2012, while total hours worked in the industry grew at a rate of 5.9 percent annually. The large difference between the growth in output and the growth in hours resulted in rapid productivity growth in the industry.

The newspaper industry, in contrast, experienced declining output at a rate of -3.8 percent annually and declining hours at a rate of -2.8 percent annually, resulting in the fall in productivity over the 1987–2012 period.

Wireless telecommunications carriers experienced productivity growth of 10.9 percent annually from 1987 to 2012, a result of output growing 20.3 percent per year and hours growing 8.5 percent per year.

These data are from the Labor Productivity and Costs program. To learn more, see “Productivity and Costs by Industry: Selected Service-Providing and Mining Industries—2012,” news release USDL‑14‑0872 (HTML) (PDF).


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Productivity in the information industry, 1987–2012 on the Internet at (visited September 29, 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.