Last Modified Date: May 23, 2019
Labor Productivity: Labor productivity describes the relationship between real output and the
labor hours involved in its production. These measures show the changes from period to period in
the amount of goods and services produced per hour worked. Although the labor productivity
measures relate output in an industry to hours worked of all persons in that industry, they do not
measure the specific contribution of labor to growth in output. 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; the characteristics and effort of the workforce; and
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 nominal 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 compensation
increases and reduce unit labor costs.
Output: Real industry output is measured as an annual-weighted index of the changes in the
various products (in real terms) provided for sale outside the industry. Real industry output is
usually derived by deflating nominal sales or values of production using BLS price indexes, but for
some industries it is measured by physical quantities of output.
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 from BLS. Other data sources include: the Energy Information
Administration, U.S. Department of Energy; the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, U.S.
Department of Transportation; the U.S. Postal Service; the Postal Rate Commission; and the
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Data from the Quarterly Service Survey from the Census
Bureau are used to construct preliminary output measures for 2018 for some industries.
Labor Hours: Labor hours are measured as annual hours worked by all employed persons in an
industry. Data on industry employment and hours come primarily from the BLS Current
Employment Statistics (CES) survey and Current Population Survey (CPS). CES data on the
number of total and production worker jobs held by wage and salary workers in nonfarm
establishments are supplemented with CPS self-employed and unpaid family worker data to
estimate industry employment. Hours worked estimates are derived using CES and CPS
employment, CES data on the average weekly hours paid of production workers, CPS data on
hours of nonproduction, self-employed, and unpaid family workers, and ratios of hours worked to
hours paid based on data from the National Compensation Survey (NCS). For some industries,
employment and hours data are supplemented or further disaggregated using data from the BLS
Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), the Census Bureau, or other sources.
Additional sources of employment and hours data for certain service industries include the
Association of American Railroads, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Postal
Service. Hours worked are estimated separately for different types of workers and then are directly
aggregated; no adjustments for labor composition are made.
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 both 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 plans. Industry compensation measures
are constructed primarily using data from the economic censuses and annual surveys of the Census
Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce. The estimates for 2018 are constructed using data from
the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW).