U.S. second-quarter productivity rises at its fastest pace in 11 years

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. worker productivity increased at its fastest pace in 11 years in the second quarter as hours plunged amid the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to an acceleration in labor costs.

The Labor Department said on Friday nonfarm productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, increased at a 7.3% annualized rate last quarter, its largest rise since the second quarter of 2009. Productivity fell at a 0.3% pace in the January-March period. Hours worked tumbled at a 43.0% rate in the second quarter, the largest since the series started in the first quarter of 1947.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast productivity rebounding at a 1.5% rate in the second quarter.

Compared to the second quarter of 2019, productivity rose at a 2.2% rate. Growth in unit labor costs – the price of labor per single unit of output – jumped at a 12.2% rate in the April-June quarter. Unit labor costs increased at a 9.8% rate in the first quarter. They rose at a 5.7% rate in from a year ago.

(This story corrects headline to second quarter from first quarter.)

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