The employment cost index rose 0.5% for the three-month period ending in December, after increasing a seasonally adjusted 0.4% for the third quarter, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

For the 12-month period ending in December 2009, the index rose 1.5%, far below the 2.6% gain during 2008.

The 0.5% quarterly gain for the fourth quarter of 2009 was just above the 0.4% increase predicted in a median estimate by economists polled by IFR Markets.

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