Transportation Economic Trends

Transportation Productivity:

Labor Productivity

Productivity measures answer important questions about the performance of the transportation sector. This page discusses labor productivity. Data and discussion about total factor productivity are also available.

2020 Year-in-Review
  • Rail, at 1.1 percent, followed by truck (0.7 percent) and transit (0.03 percent) transportation experienced an increase in labor productivity in 2020 while all other modes experienced a decline.
  • Air transportation labor productivity declined by 52.7 percent from 2019 to 2020 due to real output declining more at 60.2 percent than labor hours (13.4 percent) during the same period. As a result of the disproportionate decline, air transportation labor productivity fell below its level over the past 20 years.

Labor Productivity
Labor productivity measures the output per unit of labor input. When an industry has multiple products or services, the outputs are weighted by value. Labor productivity shows industries' responses to regulations and policies, changes in labor costs, and competitive pressures. For example, gains in air productivity from 2001 to 2008 resulted from legacy carriers adopting aggressive labor-saving initiatives and from large output gains among low-cost carriers.


Recommended citation
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Transportation Economic Trends, available at

Bureau of Transportation Statistics
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, is the preeminent source of statistics on commercial aviation, multimodal freight activity, and transportation economics, and provides context to decision makers and the public for understanding statistics on transportation.