The employment cost index measuring the price of U.S. labor rose 0.7% for the second straight quarter to mark the biggest back-to-back gain since 2008, suggesting that businesses are facing rising labor costs. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected the employment cost index to rise by a smaller 0.5% in the third quarter. The larger-than-expected increase, which matches the 0.7% advance in the second quarter, is sure to worry investors. Stocks fell sharply in late July when the last ECI report showed a bigger increase than expected. Wages climbed by a 0.8% rate and benefits rose 0.6%. Over the past 12 months employment costs have risen 2.2%, up from 2% in the prior quarter and 1.9% a year earlier. That's the fastest gain in a 12-month period in three years. The ECI is a closely followed gauge that reflects how much companies, governments and nonprofit institutions pay their employees in wages and benefits. Wages account for some 70% of employment costs and benefits the rest.
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