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U.S. workers less productive this spring

WASHINGTON -- U.S. workers were less productive in the spring for the second quarter in a row, a trend that may not bode well for future hiring.

Productivity dropped 0.3 percent in the April-June quarter, following a decline of 0.6 percent in the first three months of the year, the Labor Department said Tuesday. It was the first back-to-back decline in productivity since the second half of 2008.

The drop in productivity helped push unit labor costs up 2.2 percent. That follows a 4.8 percent rise in labor costs in the first three months of this year, the biggest increase since the last three months of 2008.

Productivity measures the amount of output per hour worked. Higher productivity is generally a good thing because it can raise standards of living by enabling companies to pay workers more without raising their prices and increasing inflation.

Still, productivity gains can be painful in the short run if they are a result of job cuts. That's what happened in the recession, when productivity rose sharply as companies laid off millions of workers and figured out how to do more with less.-- AP

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