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Subject Areas

Overview of BLS Statistics on Business Costs

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a variety of numbers that can be used to gauge movements in business costs. Some of them measure labor costs, while others measure the prices of goods and services.

BLS programs that generate business cost statistics:

Producer Price Index (PPI)

Monthly data are available on changes in the selling prices received by domestic producers of goods and services. BLS produces price indexes for the output of many industries (including many in the service sector) and more than 10,000 specific products and product classes.

Employment Cost Trends

This program publishes quarterly statistics that measure change in labor costs (also called employment costs or compensation costs) over time; quarterly data measuring the level of costs per hour worked are also published. Indexes are available for total labor costs, and separately for wages and salaries and for benefit costs. Some information is available by region, major industry group, major occupational group, and bargaining status.

Incidence and Provision of Employee Benefits

This program provides information on the share of workers who participate in specified benefits, such as health care, retirement plans, and paid vacations. The data also show the details of those benefits, such as deductible amounts, retirement ages, and amounts of paid leave. The benefits data are being combined with Employment Cost Trends data to provide a more comprehensive view of total compensation.

Import/Export Prices

Monthly data are available on changes in the prices of goods traded between the United States and the rest of the world. Price indexes for nearly all merchandise categories and selected international services also are available.

Unit Labor Costs (from Labor Productivity and Costs)

Unit labor costs for the U.S. business sector, the nonfarm business sector, the manufacturing sector, and individual industries. Unit labor costs—the cost of the labor input required to produce one unit of output—are computed by dividing labor costs in nominal terms by real output.

Labor Costs in Other Countries

International comparisons of unit labor costs in manufacturing for about a dozen countries. International comparisons of hourly compensation costs for production workers in manufacturing for about 30 countries. (The International Labor Comparisons program has been discontinued.)

For more information on the measurement of costs and prices, see the BLS Handbook of Methods.


Last Modified Date: December 16, 2013