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U.S. productivity tumbles in first quarter; labor costs surge

U.S. worker productivity fell at its steepest pace since 1947 in the first quarter, while growth in unit labor costs accelerated, the government confirmed on Thursday, signs that strong wage gains will likely persist and contribute to inflation staying uncomfortably high for a while. Nonfarm productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, tumbled at a 7.3% annualized rate last quarter, the deepest since the third quarter of 1947, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Large shifts in the composition of the workforce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have made it harder to measure underlying productivity growth, which some economists put at about 1.0% or less, making the Federal Reserve’s fight against inflation difficult.

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