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July 1997, Vol. 120, No. 7
Mark W. Dumas
The retail sector of the economy continues to be an important provider of jobs, accounting for 29 percent of employment in the private service-producing sector of the economy in 1995. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently added miscellaneous general merchandise stores (SIC 539) and catalog and mail-order houses (SIC 5961) to its productivity measurement program, enhancing its coverage of the retail sector.1 The Bureaus labor productivity measurement program now covers 90 percent of the retail trade sector, on an employment basis.
Productivity data for miscellaneous general merchandise stores are available for the 197795 period; for catalog and mail-order houses, the data cover the 198295 period. Although data for both periods are shown in tables 1 and 2, this article examines only the 198795 period. The more recent period was selected because the definition of miscellaneous general merchandise stores changed in 1987 when the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system was revised.2 Furthermore, 1987 and 1995 are appropriate for comparison because both years are at roughly the same point in the expansion or recovery stage of the business cycle.
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1 The miscellaneous general merchandise stores industry is designated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget as SIC 539 in the Standard Industrial Classification Manual: 1987. The catalog and mail-order houses industry is designated as SIC 5961 in the same publication. Complete definitions for each of the industries are contained in the body of this article.
2 The Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) is the statistical classification standard underlying all establishment-based Federal economic statistics classified by industry. The SIC is used to promote the comparability of establishment data describing various facets of the U.S. economy. The classification covers the entire field of economic activities and defines industries in accordance with the composition and structure of the economy. It is revised periodically to reflect the economys changing industrial organization. For more information on the SIC system, see the Standard Industrial Classification Manual: 1987 (Office of Management and Budget, 1987).
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