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    US productivity grew at 3.2 percent rate in Q4

    Productivity in the United States had been growing by about 2 percent per year. In 2013, it gained 0.6 percent.
    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press/File 2013
    Productivity in the United States had been growing by about 2 percent per year. In 2013, it gained 0.6 percent.

    WASHINGTON — Productivity growth slowed in the fourth quarter, while labor costs kept falling.

    For 2013, productivity turned in another weak gain of just 0.6 percent.

    Productivity grew at an annualized rate of 3.2 percent in the October-December period, down from 3.6 percent in the third quarter, the Labor Department said Thursday.

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    Labor costs fell at a 1.6 percent rate in the quarter after an even bigger 2 percent rate of decline in the third quarter.

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    Productivity measures output per hour of work. Greater productivity raises living standards because it lets companies pay workers more without raising prices, which could boost inflation.

    According to records going back to 1947, productivity in the United States has been growing by about 2 percent per year. In 2012, it increased 1.5 percent.

    In 2010 and 2011, productivity increased at annual rates above 3 percent. That reflected the fact that millions of Americans were laid off as companies struggled to cope with a deep economic downturn.

    While output was down as well, the number of workers fell more, increasing the rate of productivity.

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    After that initial jump, productivity has slowed in recent years.