U.S. Employment Costs Rise 0.8% in First Quarter

By Jeffrey Sparshott and Josh Mitchell Features Dow Jones Newswires

A broad gauge of U.S. wages and benefits rose at the fastest pace since 2007 during the first quarter of the year, a possible sign of a tightening labor market.

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The employment-cost index for civilian workers increased a seasonally adjusted 0.8% in the opening three months of 2017, the Labor Department said Friday. That was the sharpest rise since the fourth quarter of 2007.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a 0.6% gain.

Wages and salaries climbed 0.8% and benefits advanced 0.7% from the prior quarter.

From a year earlier, total compensation rose 2.4% at the start of 2017, a measured pace that suggests the labor market isn't close to overheating. The year-over-year rise was the strongest since early 2015.

Average hourly earnings for private-sector workers, a separate gauge of wages, climbed 2.7% in March from a year earlier.

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Both measure remain below levels from before the recession.

The Labor Department's report on the employment cost index can be found at: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/eci.toc.htm.

Write to Jeffrey Sparshott at jeffrey.sparshott@wsj.com and Josh Mitchell at josh.mitchell@wsj.com.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 28, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)