System of unit labour cost, OECD - Updated: June 2013


OECD Unit labour costs down 0.1 % in the first quarter of 2013


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20/06/2013 - Unit labour costs (ULCs) in OECD countries decreased by 0.1% in the first quarter of 2013, compared with a rise of 1.1% in the fourth quarter of 2012. This was driven by lower growth of labour compensation per unit of labour input (0.3% compared with 0.9% in the previous quarter), and increased labour productivity growth (0.4% compared with minus 0.2%).

Within the OECD area, the pattern of quarter-on-quarter growth in ULCs remains mixed. ULCs continued to grow in the euro area (0.6%), driven by increasing growth in labour compensation (0.9%) and relatively low, albeit positive, productivity growth (0.3%). In the United States, ULCs declined significantly compared with the fourth quarter of 2012 (minus 0.9%), reflecting both declining labour compensation and increasing labour productivity growth.

Within the euro area, the rebalancing process that has been noticeable in some countries since 2009 showed signs of slowing in the first quarter of 2013. In Portugal, ULCs fell by 2.4%, offsetting the 2.3% increase in the previous quarter. However, ULCs rose in Spain (2.2%) for the first time in three years, and in Germany, growth in ULCs slowed to 0.4% compared with 1.6% in the previous quarter. ULCs rose in Italy (1.0%) and France (0.5%) at about the same pace as in previous quarters.

Compared with the same quarter last year, ULCs grew by 1.4% in the first quarter of 2013 in the OECD area. This mainly reflects an equivalent increase in labour compensation per unit of output as growth in labour productivity was negligible.


Early Estimates of Quarterly Unit Labour Costs
Seasonally adjusted data, Total economy

ULC growth mainly driven by growth in labour compensation
OECD area, year on year percentage change

Rebalancing in the euro area becoming less pronounced
Index, 1999Q1=100


‌ Source: OECD Early Estimates of Quarterly ULC Indicators – Total economy



Next publication date: mid September 2013

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