The Labor Department reported that U.S. worker productivity declined at an annual rate of 0.9 percent in the April-to-June quarter after posting large gains throughout 2009. Unit labor costs edged up 0.2 percent in the second quarter, the first increase since the spring of 2009.
Productivity had risen during the recession as companies laid off workers and asked those still working to do more with less help. Economists said a slowing in productivity would be welcome if it translates into more hiring.
In 2009, productivity rose 3.5 percent, the highest increase in six years and a reflection of companies’ ability to produce more with fewer workers. The 0.9 percent drop in productivity in the second quarter was the first decline since a 0.1 percent dip in the fourth quarter of 2008. It was the biggest fall since a 1.3 percent decrease in the third quarter of 2008.