Are Retailers really that efficient?

Michael Mandel

While everyone is nittering and nattering about trade deficits, the real news is happening under their collective noses. Just look at the retailing sector. According to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was a spectacular jump in productivity in the retail sector in 2004, as efficiency rose across the board. Just take a look:

In 2004, retailing turned in a productivity performance almost double its medium term average (1987-2004). The biggest winner was grocery stores. Some laggards, not shown on the table, include department stores, which barely beat their historical average.

Significance? Just that higher productivity means that the U.S. can produce more with less, which is the clearest signal of true national wealth.

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