January 4, 2000 (The Editor’s Desk is updated each business day.)

Variation in unit labor costs by industry

Changes in unit labor costs varied markedly in the transportation, communications, and utilities sector from 1987 to 1997. The average annual percent change in unit labor costs in the nine measured industries ranged from –3.0 percent in railroad transportation to 5.8 percent in cable and other pay TV services.

Average annual percent changes in unit labor costs, selected industries, 1987-97
[Chart data—TXT]

Unit labor costs in overall nonfarm business increased at a rate of 2.0 percent per year from 1987-97. Besides railroad transportation, four other industries in the transportation, communications, and utilities sector with changes in costs below the overall average were telephone communications (-0.8 percent), electric utilities (0.6 percent), air transportation (0.9 percent), and trucking, except local (1.8 percent).

In addition to cable TV, three measured industries in the transportation, communications, and utilities sector had cost increases above the overall nonfarm average: gas utilities (2.7 percent), U.S. Postal Service (3.3 percent), and radio and TV broadcasting (3.9 percent).

These data are a product of the BLS Industry Productivity program. Data are subject to revision. Unit labor costs—the cost of the labor input required to produce one unit of output—are computed by dividing total compensation by real output. For more information see BLS Report 939, "Unit Labor Costs for Selected Industries, 1987-97," (PDF 44K). Note that the figure for railroad transportation pertains to 1987-96.

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