Labor costs rose at a 4.5 percent rate in the fourth quarter 0f 2012, the fastest gain since the first quarter of 2012. However, for all of 2012, labor costs were up a modest 0.7 percent. That compared to a gain of 2 percent in 2011 and a decline of 1 percent in 2010.
Labor costs were rising more rapidly before the Great Recession, which triggered millions of layoffs and reduced workers’ bargaining power.
Productivity contracted at an annual rate of 2 percent in the October-December quarter, the biggest drop since the first quarter of 2011, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Productivity had risen at a 3.2 percent rate in the July-September quarter.