Worker Productivity Up, Defying Expectations

February 6, 2002 ( - US worker productivity advanced at a rate of 3.5% over the fourth quarter of last year, according to the Department of Labor (DoL)'s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The increase in productivity, or the worker output of goods and services per hour was higher than economists anticipated, according to Reuters, and follows a 1.1% gain in the third quarter.

For the year, productivity outside the farm sector increased by 1.8%, the lowest rate since 1995, when productivity rose just 0.9%

In the last three months of 2001, the number of hours workers spent on the job shrank by 3.7%, the largest fall since the first quarter of 1991 when hours worked fell 4.8%, and the third consecutive quarterly drop in hours worked.

Unit labor costs fell by 1.1% over the quarter, also contrary to the expectations of economists polled by Reuters. However, over the whole of 2001, unit labor costs made their biggest jump in a decade, rising by 3.9%.