U.S worker productivity decreased in the first quarter of 2012, according to figures released by the Labor Department on Thursday, with an increase in output outpaced by an increase in the number of hours worked.
Labor Department statistics showed a 2.7 percent increase in output at non-farm businesses coupled with a 3.2 percent increase in hours worked, resulting in a 0.5 percent decline in labor productivity. Productivity is a measure of output per hour.
Most economists had expected a decline in productivity, though the consensus predicted a slightly smaller 0.4 percent drop.
Compared to the first quarter of 2011, however, productivity was up 0.5 percent, with output increasing by 2.8 percent and hours worked up by 2.2 percent.
The report also showed that unit labor costs increased by 2 percent in the first quarter of 2012, driven in part by a 1.5 percent increase in hourly compensation.
Compared to the first quarter of 2011, unit labor costs rose by 2.1 percent.
Productivity in the fourth quarter increased by an upwardly revised 1.2 percent, while unit labor costs jumped by 2.7 percent.
The manufacturing sector showed markedly higher productivity figures in the first quarter, with productivity rising by 5.9 percent, as output jumped 10.8 percent and hours worked rose by a smaller 4.6 percent.
The increases in manufacturing productivity and output were the largest since the second quarter of 2010, according to DOL figures.
Unit labor costs for manufacturing fell 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 and were down 1.3 percent compared to the previous year.
by RTT Staff Writer
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