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U.S. productivity 'rising': Less staff, working harder?

Posting in Technology

American productivity has grown by its fastest rate since 2010 in Q3 2012 according to official figures.

Official figures released by the Labor Department suggests that in the third quarter, productivity among non-farming workers rose by 2.9 -- measured in hourly output per worker -- in comparison to Q3 2012.

Original estimates in November suggested that productivity would grow by 1.9 percent.

In addition, the overall rate of hours worked by non-farming employees rose by 1.3 percent. In the third quarter of this year, productivity increased 1.7 percent year-on-year, output rose rose 3.5 percent and overall hours worked increased 1.8 percent.

Labor costs declined 1.9 percent, revised from original estimates of 0.1 percent, while hourly pay increased 0.9 percent. Over the last four quarters, labor costs have risen 0.1 percent.

In the manufacturing sector, productivity declined 0.7 percent, and labor costs increased 3.2 percent across the board -- something the Labor Department puts down to "a large upward revision to hourly compensation."

Within the business sector, productivity levels rose 2.5 percent based on Q3's figures, and jumped 1.6 percent year-on-year. Output rose 3.6 percent quarter-on-quarter, hours worked increased by 1.1 percent, and hourly wages increased by one percent. Labor costs decreased by 1.5 percent from Q3, and lowered by 0.2 percent year-on-year.

The rise in productivity levels may suggest that companies are finding ways of getting employees to work harder instead of hiring extra staff in an economy where firms are struggling -- or simply that staff are being made to take on additional work to cover the lack of employees, and accept it rather than lose a job they may not find again for some time.

Image credit: Alan Cleaver

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— By on December 5, 2012, 8:44 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure