On February 16, 2023, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) introduced experimental measures for the water, sewage, and other systems industry (NAICS 2213X) that expanded coverage to include local government enterprises.
BLS updated data through 2020 on October 24, 2023. From 2019 to 2020, employment declined (-0.8 percent) in the water, sewage, and other systems industry (NAICS 2213X) for combined local government and private enterprises with real output rising slightly (+0.2 percent) and leading to a 1.1 percent growth in output per worker. Output per worker increased in each segment: private industry (+2.5 percent) and local government (+0.7 percent). For both components, real sectoral output increased in 2020 and employment contracted slightly. Private industry saw a greater magnitude of change in both directions: employment fell by 1.9 percent and output increased by 0.6 percent; whereas local government employment fell by 0.5 percent as output increased by 0.2 percent.
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BLS already publishes measures of labor productivity, unit labor costs, output, hours worked, and labor compensation for water, sewage, and other systems in its Selected Service-Providing Industries Economic News Release. However, these measures only include privately owned systems. To better represent this industry, BLS is expanding coverage to include local government enterprises using alternative source data to construct experimental output and employment measures. The 2020 experimental estimates indicate that approximately 76 percent of employment and 90 percent of revenues were in local government. State and federal enterprises are not included but appear to make up a small portion of the industry based on incomplete Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) employment data and U.S. Census Bureau revenue data.
The standard BLS output measure is built using the Census Bureau’s Service Annual Survey (SAS) revenue data, which only covers private enterprises. For this experimental measure, BLS sums revenue from local government and private enterprises and deflates the combined value with the corresponding industry Consumer Price Index (CPI) deflator to calculate the output index. The SAS is still used to account for private revenue but these data are now combined with local government revenue from the Annual Survey of State and Local Government Finances.
BLS measures productivity as output per hour worked. Hours worked data normally come from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program; however, this source does not contain data on government enterprises. An examination of all published data on government enterprises in the water, sewage, and other systems industry reveals that the QCEW’s All Employees statistic is the only employment metric available. In the absence of reliable hours worked data, BLS measures output per worker to enable comparison between private sector and local government productivity.
Consequently BLS uses the employment data that do exist and publishes a more limited measure of productivity: output per worker. The output per worker measure for the experimental water, sewage, and other systems industry is the ratio of combined output and employment indexes.
In Chart 1, output per worker is overlaid with its components: output and employment. Output per worker largely fell from 2009 to 2017, with exceptions of a 0.2 percent increase in 2011, and no change in 2017. Output per worker increased in 2018 as output soared above a minor employment increase. Employment caught up in 2019 and when combined with slowing output, output per worker returned to its trend of modest decline. Most recently, employment was down in 2020 which contributed to a recovery of output per worker, as output did not change much over the year.
Chart 2 highlights the influences of both the local government and private sectors on the combined industry-level output per worker measure. Notably, outside of a brief increase from 2013-14, private output per worker declined quickly from 2009 through 2019. This decline was much less severe in the local government sector from 2009 to 2016, and output per worker increased from 2016-2018. Private and local government both recorded an increase in output per worker in 2020. Because local government represents about 90 percent of revenues in water, sewage, and other systems, output per worker in the combined measure is much less sensitive to the decline in the private sector.
Chart 3 illustrates the value of the experimental measures, breaking down output, employment, and output per worker by enterprise type. Local government output fell from 2009 through 2015, then began to climb from 2015 to 2020. Output per worker remained only 5 percent lower in 2020 than it was in 2009. In the private sector, output per worker declined by nearly 25 percent from 2009 to 2019 due to a combination of increased employment and lower output. In 2020, private sector output per worker gained 2.5 percent as employment declined by 1.9 percent while output increased by 0.6 percent.
 Due to inconsistent data coverage, the inclusion of state and federal government enterprises is not currently feasible.
 While the same SAS revenue data and CPI deflators are used for private enterprises in both the experimental and the standard BLS measure, output values will differ between the two publications. Variation in the two output series stems from alternative benchmarking methods. Because the experimental data only go back to 2009, BLS chose to extend the direct SAS to Economic Census link through the duration of the series. In our standard update, an alternative benchmark is used for the 1987-2012 period.
 The experimental series excludes data related to the sub-industry steam and air-conditioning supply (NAICS 22133) for local government enterprises because the Census Bureau’s State and Local Government Finances program does not collect revenue data for it independently.
Last Modified Date: October 24, 2023