US worker productivity up just 0.7 pct. in first quarter after shrinking in previous quarter

WASHINGTON – U.S. worker productivity barely grew from January through March after shrinking in the final three months of 2012. Weak productivity growth could prompt employers to hire more if consumers and businesses continue to increase spending.

The Labor Department says productivity rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.7 per cent in the first quarter, after shrinking 1.7 per cent in the previous quarter.

Labour costs increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 0.5 per cent, below the fourth quarter’s 4.4 per cent gain.

Productivity is the amount of output per hour of work. It increased because output rose at a faster pace than hours worked.

Productivity has been under 1 per cent since 2010 and well below the long-run trend of 2.2 per cent growth a year dating back to 1947.