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U.S. Productivity Falls 1.9% in First Quarter; Labor Costs Rise

Wall Street Journal (05/06/15) Jeffrey Sparshott; Josh Mitchell

Productivity declined a 1.9% seasonally adjusted annual rate in the first quarter, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal had forecast a 1.8% decline from the fourth quarter of 2014. Output fell at a 0.2% pace, and hours worked increased at a 1.7% rate. Productivity data can be volatile and often are substantially revised. Still, productivity has declined for two consecutive quarters, the first time that has occurred since 2006.

Meanwhile, unit labor costs rose at a 5.0% annual rate in the first quarter. Economists had forecast a 4.3% increase.