U.S. productivity climbs, barely, in first quarter

WASHINGTON - The productivity of American workers rose just modestly in the spring, extending a worrisome issue that has persisted through this expansion.

The Labor Department said on Wednesday that productivity grew at an annual rate of 0.9 percent in the April-June quarter after a scant 0.1 percent rate of increase in the first quarter. Labor costs edged up at a 0.6 percent rate in the second quarter, a sharp slowdown from a 5.4 percent growth rate in the first quarter.

Productivity, the amount of output per hour of work, has been weak throughout the recovery, now in its ninth year. Many analysts say this represents the biggest economic challenge facing the country.

According to revised data, productivity actually fell 0.1 percent for all of 2016, the first decline in 34 years.