WASHINGTON — U.S. nonfarm productivity increased at a 3.6% annual rate in the first quarter ended March 31, exceeding economists’ estimates, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

Unit labor costs fell 1.6%, the third straight quarterly decline.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters expected productivity to increase 2.5% and for unit labor costs to decline 0.7%, according to the median estimate.

Productivity in the fourth quarter of 2009 was revised lower to a 6.3% rise from the 6.9% increase reported in the last release. Unit labor costs in the fourth quarter were revised to a 5.6% drop from the most recent estimate of a 5.9% decline.

Subscribe Now

Independent and authoritative analysis and perspective for the bond buying industry.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.