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Slacking off: New data show the largest drop in labor productivity in six years

June 4, 2014, 5:15 PM UTC
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

U.S. labor productivity saw its largest decline in six years in the first quarter of the year, slipping a steeper-than-expected 3.2%, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

The report showed productivity for the non-farm business sector dropped due to lower output, a decline for a period when much of the U.S. was stung with severe winter storms and temperatures that were among the chilliest recorded. The 3.2% decrease was greater than the 1.7% initial estimate and also below the 2.9% drop in productivity expected by economists surveyed by Bloomberg.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the first quarter’s decline was the largest since the first three months of 2008, when productivity fell 3.9%.

The weak labor productivity report coincides with a separate report on Wednesday that showed U.S. businesses added a smaller-than-expected 179,000 jobs in May, according to a report by payroll processor Automatic Data Processing and analysis provider Moody’s Analytics. Both data points suggest the job market hasn’t gained significant traction despite a consistent boost in hiring in recent years.