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US productivity grew at strong 2.9% rate in the second quarter

A factory worker installs rivets on an Airstream RV travel trailer at the company's assembly plant in Jackson Center, Ohio.
Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Labor Department on Thursday affirmed last month's report that U.S. productivity increased at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the second quarter.

The government reported few revisions to the productivity figures released in August. The jump in productivity followed a tepid 0.3 percent gain in the first quarter. Labor costs slipped 1 percent in the April-June quarter, instead of the 0.9 percent that was initially reported.

Productivity is a measure of output for each hour worked. It largely determines how fast the economy can grow and how much living standards can increase. Because productivity has been weak throughout this nine-year expansion, overall economic growth has been relatively sluggish. Many economists view the strong second quarter growth as a blip rather than a lasting acceleration.

Separately, the Labor Department said Thursday that 203,000 people applied for jobless benefits last week, the lowest level since December 1969.

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US jobless claims fall to near 49-year low

Key Points
  • The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to near a 49-year low last week.
  • The data pointed to sustained labor market strength that should continue to underpin economic growth.
  • Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 10,000 to 203,000 for the week ended Sept. 1, the lowest level since December 1969, the Labor Department said.