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March 05, 2009
Productivity Dips as Output Slides at Fastest Rate in 27 Years

The Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics revised productivity rates downward for the fourth quarter of 2008.

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The bureau measures productivity by output per hour of all persons-- employees, proprietors, and unpaid family workers. The revised report showed that productivity declined at an annual rate of 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, as output decreased 8.7 percent and hours of all persons decreased 8.3 percent.

The fourth-quarter decline in output was the largest since the first quarter of 1982 (-8.7 percent) and the decline in hours was the largest since the first quarter of 1975 (-12.0 percent).

Meanwhile, hourly compensation grew 5.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. Real hourly compensation rose steeply, 15.9 percent, when the 9.2 percent decrease in consumer prices was taken into account. This was the largest increase since the bureau began tracking real hourly compensation in 1947.

Unit labor costs increased 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter and 1.8 percent over the last four quarters.

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