U.S. second-quarter productivity rises at its fastest pace in 11 years

FILE PHOTO: A worker with a face shield checks products on the shelf of a grocery store in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., August 7, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. worker productivity increased at its fastest pace in 11 years in the second quarter as hours plunged amid the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to an acceleration in labor costs.

The Labor Department said on Friday nonfarm productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, increased at a 7.3% annualized rate last quarter, its largest rise since the second quarter of 2009. Productivity fell at a 0.3% pace in the January-March period. Hours worked tumbled at a 43.0% rate in the second quarter, the largest since the series started in the first quarter of 1947.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast productivity rebounding at a 1.5% rate in the second quarter.

Compared to the second quarter of 2019, productivity rose at a 2.2% rate. Growth in unit labor costs - the price of labor per single unit of output - jumped at a 12.2% rate in the April-June quarter. Unit labor costs increased at a 9.8% rate in the first quarter. They rose at a 5.7% rate in from a year ago.

(This story corrects headline to second quarter from first quarter.)

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama