US productivity grew at strong 2.9 percent rate in Q2

The Labor Department on Thursday affirmed last month's report that U.S. productivity increased at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the second quarter.

The government reported few revisions to the productivity figures released in August. The jump in productivity followed a tepid 0.3 percent gain in the first quarter. Labor costs slipped 1 percent in the April-June quarter, instead of the 0.9 percent that was initially reported.

Productivity is a measure of output for each hour worked. It largely determines how fast the economy can grow and how much living standards can increase. Because productivity has been weak throughout this nine-year expansion, overall economic growth has been relatively sluggish. Many economists view the strong second quarter growth as a blip rather than a lasting acceleration.

Separately, the Labor Department said Thursday that 203,000 people applied for jobless benefits last week, the lowest level since December 1969.