Haver Analytics
Haver Analytics
| May 02 2024

U.S. Productivity Growth Slows and Unit Labor Cost Growth Accelerates in Q1

  • Productivity slows in Q1.
  • Unit labor costs rise sharply.
  • Slowdown in factory productivity and unit labor cost growth.

Nonfarm business sector productivity increased 0.3% (SAAR) during Q1’24, following upwardly revised gains of 3.5% in Q4’23 and 4.6% in Q3’23. The rises in productivity were originally reported as being 3.4% in Q4 and 4.4% in Q3. Expectations had been for a 0.8% rise in the Action Economics Forecast Survey. On a year-on-year comparison, Q1 productivity rose 2.9%, up from 2.7% in Q4 and 2.4% in Q3. The y/y gain was the quickest since 2020. Real value-added output rose 1.3% (SAAR) (3.2% y/y) in Q1 from a 3.8% (3.3% y/y) gain in Q4.

Hours-worked in the nonfarm business sector rose 1.0% (0.3% y/y) in Q1 from a 0.2% (0.6% y/y) rise in Q4. Nonfarm hourly compensation increased 5.0% (4.7% y/y) in Q1 from a 3.5% gain (5.2% y/y) in Q4. Adjusted for price inflation, real compensation per hour rose 1.1% (1.5% y/y) in Q1, following a 0.8% (1.9% y/y) rise in Q4.

Weaker productivity brought an acceleration in unit labor costs to 4.7% (1.8% y/y) in Q1 after a 0.0% (2.4%) rise in Q4. The Action Economics Forecast Survey called for a 2.3% quarterly rise in unit labor costs.

In the manufacturing sector, real output per hour slowed to a rise of 0.2% (1.2% y/y) last quarter after a gain of 2.4% (0.9% y/y) in Q4. Manufacturing output was unchanged over the quarter (-0.1% y/y) after declining 1.0% (-0.2% y/y) in Q4. Hours-worked declined 0.2% (-1.3% y/y) in Q1 after a drop of 3.3% (-1.1% y/y) in Q4.

Compensation per hour in manufacturing slowed to a gain of 3.4% (6.3% y/y) last quarter following a rise of 6.8% (6.7% y/y) in Q4. Real compensation declined 0.4% (3.0% y/y) in Q1, after a rise of 4.0% (3.4% y/y) in Q4. Unit labor costs in manufacturing slowed to a rise of 3.2% (5.0% y/y) in Q1 following a gain of 4.2% (5.8% y/y) the prior quarter.

The productivity and labor cost data are available in Haver’s USECON database. The Action Economics expectations figures are in the AS1REPNA database.

  • Kathleen Stephansen is a Senior Economist for Haver Analytics and an Independent Trustee for the EQAT/VIP/1290 Trust Funds, encompassing the US mutual funds sponsored by the Equitable Life Insurance Company. She is a former Chief Economist of Huawei Technologies USA, Senior Economic Advisor to the Boston Consulting Group, Chief Economist of the American International Group (AIG) and AIG Asset Management’s Senior Strategist and Global Head of Sovereign Research. Prior to joining AIG in 2010, Kathleen held various positions as Chief Economist or Head of Global Research at Aladdin Capital Holdings, Credit Suisse and Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette Securities Corporation.

    Kathleen serves on the boards of the Global Interdependence Center (GIC), as Vice-Chair of the GIC College of Central Bankers, is the Treasurer for Economists for Peace and Security (EPS) and is a former board member of the National Association of Business Economics (NABE). She is a member of Chatham House and the Economic Club of New York. She holds an undergraduate degree in economics from the Universite Catholique de Louvain and graduate degrees in economics from the University of New Hampshire (MA) and the London School of Economics (PhD abd).

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