An employment index used to track overall labor costs rose 1.7% for the 12-month period ending in March, after increasing 0.6% at a seasonally adjusted rate during the first quarter of 2010, according to a report the Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday.

The 0.6% gain for the first quarter followed an unrevised 0.4% uptick for the previous quarter. For the 12-month period ending in December 2009, the index rose 1.5%.

The first-quarter gain was slightly ahead of a 0.5% uptick predicted by economists polled by IFR Markets.

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