September 27, 2004 (The Editor’s Desk is updated each business day.)

Declines in labor costs among service-producing industries

Between 1987 and 1998, unit labor costs declined in 11 of the 46 service-producing industries analyzed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Average annual percent changes in unit labor costs, selected industries, 1987-98
[Chart data—TXT]

Variety stores experienced the largest drop in unit labor costs (-4.7 percent). Other service-producing industries with large drops in labor costs were radio, television, computer, and music stores (-3.5 percent), railroad transportation (-2.5 percent), and household appliance stores (-2.2 percent).

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.

This information is from the Industry Productivity Program. Data are subject to revision. Additional information is available from "Productivity and Costs: Service-Producing and Mining Industries, 1987-98" news release USDL 00-156. Cost data for railroad transportation is for 1987 to 1997.

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