In surprise, productivity falls and labor costs jump


You can now add productivity and unit labor costs to the growing list of investor concerns for the U.S. economy.

U.S. Q4 2008 worker productivity unexpectedly fell at a -0.4% annualized rate and unit labor costs surged an alarming 5.7%, the U.S. Labor Department announced Thursday.

For all of 2008, productivity increased 2.8%, the largest productivity increase since 2003. Still, although solid, that level represents a downward revision in Q4 2008 productivity from the previous 3.2% Labor Department estimate -- which suggests the recent U.S. GDP slowdown is hurting output on a per-person basis. In 2007, productivity increased 1.4%.