The cost of employing the average U.S. worker sped up in the third quarter after a record-low increase in the spring, according to an closely followed gauge. The employment cost index advanced a seasonally adjusted 0.6% from July to September after a 0.2% gain in the second quarter. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected a 0.7% gain. Despite the third-quarter pickup there's little evidence of a broad acceleration in the cost of labor. Over the past 12 months, employment costs have risen an unadjusted 2%, the same as in the second quarter but down sharply from a postrecession high of 2.6% in the first quarter. The ECI reflects how much companies, governments and nonprofit institutions pay their employees in wages and benefits. Wages - some 70% of employment costs - rose 0.6% in the third quarter. Benefits increased 0.5%.
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