Tags: Productivity | Workers | Hours | economy

Productivity Drops as Hours Jump by Most in 16 Years

Thursday, 05 February 2015 08:48 AM

The productivity of U.S. workers dropped in the fourth quarter as employers boosted hours by the most in 16 years, making the cost of labor more expensive.

The measure of employee output per hour decreased at a 1.8 percent annualized rate, after a revised 3.7 percent gain in the prior three months that was larger than previously estimated, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 52 economists called for a 0.1 percent advance. Expenses per worker climbed at a 2.7 percent pace.

A dearth of business spending on new technology during the recession and early stages of the economic expansion that began in June 2009 may be making the American workforce less efficient. The resulting increase in costs is probably one reason companies have been less willing to boost wages even as hiring picks up.

“Businesses have really underinvested over the course of this recovery,” which has kept productivity growth subdued, Richard Moody, chief economist of Regions Financial Group in Birmingham, Alabama, said before the report. “It’s one of the more telling reasons why we haven’t really seen wage growth pick up that much.”

Another report from the Labor Department Thursday showed fewer Americans than forecast filed jobless claims last week, hovering around levels that are typically associated with an improving job market. Applications for unemployment benefits increased by 11,000 to 278,000 in the week ended Jan. 31, from a revised 267,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed Thursday in Washington. The median forecast of 50 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a rise to 290,000.

Survey Results

Economists’ estimates for productivity ranged from a decrease of 1.7 percent to a 1.5 gain. The prior quarter’s reading was previously reported as a 2.3 percent advance.

Unit labor costs, which are adjusted for efficiency gains, were forecast to rise 1.2 percent in the fourth quarter, according to the Bloomberg survey median. They dropped at a 2.3 percent pace in the prior quarter, revised from an initially reported 1 percent decrease.

For all of 2014, productivity climbed 0.8 percent, the smallest gain since 2011. During the boom in business investment from 1995 to 2000, output per hour increased at a 2.8 percent a year on average.

Unit labor costs rose 1.5 percent last year after increasing 0.2 percent in 2013.

Adjusted for inflation, hourly earnings increased at a 2.1 percent rate last quarter, after rising at a 0.2 percent pace in the third quarter.


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The productivity of U.S. workers dropped in the fourth quarter as employers boosted hours by the most in 16 years, making the cost of labor more expensive.
Productivity, Workers, Hours, economy
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2015-48-05
Thursday, 05 February 2015 08:48 AM
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