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Labor productivity up 5.7 percent in wholesale trade, 6.6 percent in retail trade, in 2021

August 03, 2022

Labor productivity rose in wholesale trade and in retail trade in 2021. In wholesale trade, productivity rose 5.7 percent as output growth (+8.7 percent) surpassed growth in hours worked (+2.8 percent). In retail trade, productivity increased by 6.6 percent as output growth (+10.4 percent) exceeded growth in hours worked (+3.6 percent).

Wholesale and retail trade labor productivity, hours worked, and output, annual percent change, 2011–2021
Year Wholesale trade Retail trade
Labor productivity Hours worked Real output Labor productivity Hours worked Real output

2011

-0.9% 3.1% 2.2% 0.7% 2.2% 2.9%

2012

1.8 1.4 3.2 2.2 1.0 3.3

2013

2.3 1.2 3.5 4.3 -0.5 3.8

2014

2.0 1.4 3.3 1.7 2.2 3.9

2015

2.6 0.6 3.3 3.2 1.6 4.9

2016

0.7 0.4 1.1 4.5 -0.2 4.3

2017

1.0 0.2 1.3 1.9 1.3 3.2

2018

1.5 0.5 2.0 3.2 -0.1 3.1

2019

-0.1 0.2 0.1 4.6 -1.6 2.8

2020

3.5 -6.1 -2.8 7.4 -3.5 3.6

2021

5.7 2.8 8.7 6.6 3.6 10.4

The change in output in wholesale trade in 2021 was the second highest since 1987, and productivity and hours rose at the fastest rates since 2010 and 2011, respectively. Annual productivity growth for retail trade slowed from its peak growth in 2020 (7.4 percent), with hours worked and output both increasing at the fastest rates since measurement began in 1987.

Within wholesale trade, productivity rose 9.6 percent in durable goods wholesalers and 0.9 percent in nondurable goods wholesalers during 2021. The highest increase in productivity occurred in miscellaneous durable goods merchant wholesalers.

In retail trade, productivity increased in 23 of the 27 retail trade industries. Shoe stores saw the largest productivity increase. In the largest retail employer, grocery stores, hours worked fell faster than output, leading to a productivity increase of 1.2 percent.

These data are from the Productivity program. Data are preliminary and may be revised. To learn more, see "Productivity and Costs by Industry: Wholesale Trade and Retail Trade Industries — 2021." Also see charts related to the latest "Productivity and Costs by Industry: Wholesale and Retail Trade Industries" news release.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Labor productivity up 5.7 percent in wholesale trade, 6.6 percent in retail trade, in 2021 at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2022/labor-productivity-up-5-7-percent-in-wholesale-trade-6-6-percent-in-retail-trade-in-2021.htm (visited August 18, 2022).

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