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April 29, 2004
Benefits Costs Rise Sharply

Benefit costs in the private sector shot up 2.6 percent from December 2003 to March 2004, sharply higher than the 1.4 percent gain in the previous quarter, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Benefit costs for state and local governments increased 1.7 percent in the quarter, following an increase of 1.3 percent in December 2003.

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Overall, compensation costs for the private sector rose 1.1 percent in the quarter, after advancing 0.8 percent in the previous quarter.

For state and local government workers, compensation costs increased 1.0 percent from December to March, compared with a gain of 0.8 percent for the quarter ended in December.

Wages and salaries for civilian, private, and state and local government workers each advanced 0.6 percent during the March quarter. During the prior quarter, civilian and private industry wages and salaries rose 0.5 percent, and state and local government wages and salaries rose 0.6 percent.

Compensation costs in private industry rose 3.9 percent in the year ended March 2004, compared with a 3.8 percent increase in March 2003.

While increases in wages and salaries continued to slow, benefit costs continued to rise sharply during the year ended March 2004, according to the BLS.

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