Worker productivity slipped in the fourth quarter, while the number of workers filing first-time applications for unemployment benefits fell for the first time in three weeks, media reports said.
The Labor Department said the productivity of workers excluding the farm sector fell 0.2% in the fourth quarter, after jumping 5.5% in the previous quarter. The number was worse than market expectations of a 0.4% increase. For the full year 2002, productivity rose 4.7%.
The quarterly report is likely to disappoint market watchers, since growth in productivity, which measures the amount of goods and service produced for each hour of work, has been cited by experts as a big factor in the economic recovery.
Separately, the Labor Department said initial jobless claims declined by 11,000 to 391,000 in the week ended Saturday. The four-week moving average fell by 500 to a nine-week low of 384,750.
The number of workers drawing unemployment benefits for more than a week rose by 58,000 to a four-week high of 3,353,000 in the week ended Jan. 25.