Labour statistics

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


OECD Unit labour costs up 0.6 % in the fourth quarter of 2012


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21/03/2013 - Growth in Unit labour costs (ULCs) in the OECD area accelerated to 0.6% in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared to 0.2% in the third quarter. Overall, growth in labour compensation per unit of labour input slowed marginally (to 0.3% compared to 0.4% in the third quarter). But this was more than offset by a significant slowdown in labour productivity (minus 0.3% compared to plus 0.2% in the previous quarter).

The same factors, marginally slowing wage growth but declining productivity growth, drove ULCs in the Euro area (up 0.5%), the United States (1.0%) and Canada (0.4%). Labour productivity fell in the United States (minus 0.6%), Canada (minus 0.4%) and the Euro area (minus 0.3%).

Since the beginning of the financial crisis, ULCs in the Euro area have risen by about 10%, 3 percentage points higher than the OECD average. Some rebalancing continued among countries in the Euro area: whereas the rise in ULCs in Germany to the fourth quarter of 2012 was 1.3%, ULCs rose by 1.0% in Italy, by 0.6% in France and Portugal, and declined in Spain (minus 3.1%). Increases in ULCs were typically due to weak productivity growth combined with rising wages; the decline in ULC levels in Spain reflected significant wage cuts in combination with rising productivity.

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

Total change in ULC and its components since the outset of the financial crisis1
Total change 2007Q4 to 2012Q4, in percent

1. The growth rate of unit labour cost is approximately equal to the difference between the growth rate of labour compensation per unit of labour input and labour productivity growth‌

ULCs over time within the Euro area
Index, 2005Q1=100


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



Next publication date: mid June 2013

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