US productivity fell at 2 percent rate - New York News

US productivity fell at 2 percent rate

Posted: Updated:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. worker productivity shrank in the final three months of 2012 although the decline was caused by temporary factors.

Productivity contracted at an annual rate of 2 percent in the October-December quarter, the biggest drop since the first quarter of 2011, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Productivity had risen at a 3.2 percent rate in the July-September quarter.

Labor costs rose at a 4.5 percent rate in the fourth quarter, the fastest gain since the first quarter of 2012.

Productivity is the amount of output per hour of work. It shrank in the fourth quarter because economic activity contracted while hours worked rose. The economy declined at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the last three months of 2012, a drop caused mainly by deep defense cuts and slower restocking, changes not expected to last.

The trend in productivity has been weak for the past two years. For all of 2012, productivity rose by just 1 percent following an even smaller 0.7 percent rise in 2011. Those gains were less than half the average growth that companies saw in 2009 and 2010, shortly after many laid off workers to cut costs during the Great Recession. And it's below the long-run growth of 2.2 percent a year dating back to 1947.

Companies may ultimately need to hire more workers if they see only modest gains in productivity and more demand for their products.

Economists predict worker productivity will be weak through 2013. Higher productivity is typical during and after a recession, they note. Companies tend to shed workers in the face of falling demand and increase output from a smaller work force. Once the economy starts to grow, demand rises and companies eventually must add workers if they want to keep up.

For all of 2012, labor costs were up a modest 0.7 percent. That compared to a gain of 2 percent in 2011 and a decline of 1 percent in 2010. Labor costs were rising more rapidly before the Great Recession, which triggered millions of layoffs and reduced workers' bargaining power.

The Federal Reserve closely monitors productivity and labor costs for any signs that inflation is affecting wages. Mild inflation has allowed the central bank to keep interest rates at record lows in an effort to boost economic growth and fight high unemployment.

Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said while wage costs were up in the fourth quarter, the annual increase was in line with the Fed's 2 percent annual inflation target, which will allow the central bank to keep providing support to the economy to boost growth and employment.

"The slowdown in productivity growth will put some downward pressure on corporate profit margins, which are currently close to record highs," Ashcroft said. "That's another reason to suspect that stock markets could have a more disappointing time in the second half of this year."

The 0.1 percent economic contraction in the October-December quarter was a sharp reversal from the 3.1 percent growth rate in the July-September period. A plunge in defense spending helped push the economy into negative territory for the first time since mid-2009.

For all of 2012, the economy grew 2.2 percent. Many economists believe growth will be weaker in 2013. An increase in Social Security taxes is reducing take-home pay, which is likely to dampen consumer spending. And across-the-board government spending cuts could also weaken growth.

  • Your MoneyMore>>

  • Business is good at Coney Island

    Business is good at Coney Island

    Friday, August 29 2014 10:22 PM EDT2014-08-30 02:22:32 GMT
    From the brand-new Thunderbolt roller coaster to the world-famous boardwalk, tourists and business owners alike say Coney Island had a great ride of its own this summer. Toms Coney Island's general manager Vasilios Tourlokas says the mild summer impacted his boardwalk business in the best way possible: a 10 to 15 percent increase.
    From the brand-new Thunderbolt roller coaster to the world-famous boardwalk, tourists and business owners alike say Coney Island had a great ride of its own this summer. Toms Coney Island's general manager Vasilios Tourlokas says the mild summer impacted his boardwalk business in the best way possible: a 10 to 15 percent increase.
  • NYC Denny's features $300 breakfast

    NYC Denny's features $300 breakfast

    Friday, August 29 2014 4:04 PM EDT2014-08-29 20:04:13 GMT
    Diner chain Denny's is opening it's first New York City location, complete with a big-city "deal".   How does a $300 breakfast sound?    The Denny's is located at the corner of Nassau and Spruce in Lower Manhattan's Financial District.  Along with its normal food you can get at just about any location in the rest of the country, this location will offer a Grand Slam breakfast with a bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon champagne.
    Diner chain Denny's is opening it's first New York City location, complete with a big-city "deal".   How does a $300 breakfast sound?    The Denny's is located at the corner of Nassau and Spruce in Lower Manhattan's Financial District.  Along with its normal food you can get at just about any location in the rest of the country, this location will offer a Grand Slam breakfast with a bottle of 2003 Dom Perignon champagne.
  • Some Showboat workers get new jobs within company

    Some Showboat workers get new jobs within company

    Friday, August 29 2014 2:54 PM EDT2014-08-29 18:54:36 GMT
    More than 470 of the 2,000-plus workers at Atlantic City's Showboat Casino Hotel have found new jobs with other casinos owned by its parent company. The Showboat is shutting down Sunday afternoon after 27 years on the Boardwalk.
    More than 470 of the 2,000-plus workers at Atlantic City's Showboat Casino Hotel have found new jobs with other casinos owned by its parent company. The Showboat is shutting down Sunday afternoon after 27 years on the Boardwalk.
  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Hope's Land of Candy

    Hope's Land of Candy

    Monday, September 1 2014 8:13 PM EDT2014-09-02 00:13:34 GMT
    Step through the doors of Hope's Land of Candy in Island Park, Long Island and you''ll be taking a trip back in time. There's no WIFI but they do have a Victrola piano. And then there's the candy.. lots and lots of it.
    Step through the doors of Hope's Land of Candy in Island Park, Long Island and you''ll be taking a trip back in time. There's no WIFI but they do have a Victrola piano. And then there's the candy.. lots and lots of it.
  • Subway bedbug infestations on the rise

    Subway bedbug infestations on the rise

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:48 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:48:09 GMT
    It appears the subway bedbug problem we've been reporting is getting worse. Commuters already have to contend with sweltering platforms, scurrying rats and packed train cars, and now there's another transit woe: fear of bedbugs.
    It appears the subway bedbug problem we've been reporting is getting worse. Commuters already have to contend with sweltering platforms, scurrying rats and packed train cars, and now there's another transit woe: fear of bedbugs.
  • West Indian Day Parade steps off amid shootings

    West Indian Day Parade steps off amid shootings

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:05 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:05:47 GMT
    The West Indian Day Parade is supposed to be a time of fun and excitement in celebration of Caribbean culture. However, several shootings near the parade has turned it into a day of tragedy for some.
    The West Indian Day Parade is supposed to be a time of fun and excitement in celebration of Caribbean culture. However, several shootings near the parade has turned it into a day of tragedy for some.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices