U.S. Productivity Growth Stalled in Fourth Quarter

03/07/18 08:45 AM EST
   By Josh Mitchell and Ben Leubsdorf 

WASHINGTON--U.S. productivity growth stalled late last year while the cost of labor grew more quickly than previously thought.

Productivity--a measure of the goods and services Americans produced per hour worked--was flat in the fourth quarter of 2017, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That figure, based on revised data, replaced the agency's prior estimate of a 0.1% decline, at an annual rate, for nonfarm business productivity.

Meanwhile, unit labor costs grew at an annual rate of 2.5% in October through December. The agency previously reported a 2% gain.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected the revised figures to show a 0.1% drop in productivity and a 2.1% gain in labor costs.

Productivity has grown at a sluggish pace throughout the current expansion, continuing a decades-long slide. But it picked up last year. Productivity grew 1.1% in the fourth quarter of 2017 compared with a year earlier.

Meanwhile, rising wages combined with modest economic growth has pushed up unit labor costs higher than previously estimated. In addition to the fourth-quarter upward revision, unit labor costs grew at a 1% rate in the third quarter. The agency previously reported a 0.1% drop.

The Labor Department's report on productivity can be accessed at http://bls.gov/lpc.

Write to Josh Mitchell at joshua.mitchell@wsj.com and Ben Leubsdorf at ben.leubsdorf@wsj.com.


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 07, 2018 08:45 ET (13:45 GMT)

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