PRODUCTIVITY & COSTS Tuesday, Feb. 7, 10 a.m. -- Output per hour worked in the nonfarm sector probably was unchanged or fell slightly in the fourth quarter. Although economic output seems to have grown robustly, so did total hours worked as indicated by surging job growth and the longer workweek. The expected weakness at yearend means that productivity grew by about 2% in 1994 after a 1.5% increase in 1993. In the factory sector, productivity is still going strong, with a likely advance of about 1.5%, at an annual rate, in the fourth quarter. In the third quarter, nonfarm productivity grew 3.1%, with manufacturing increasing 3.5%. Unit labor costs in the nonfarm sector probably rose at an annual rate of about 3% last quarter, after no change in the third period, but factory unit costs most likely slid for the fifth consecutive quarter. The slack showing of productivity at the end of 1994 will rev up the debate over the structural uptrend in productivity in the U.S. INSTALLMENT CREDIT Tuesday, Feb. 7 -- Consumers probably added about $10.5 billion in new debt in December, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by MMS International, a division of McGraw-Hill Inc. The expected increase would be a bit below the $11.6 billion in October and $12.9 billion in November. The hefty accumulation of new borrowing suggests that the holiday shopping season was significantly financed by credit cards. PRODUCER PRICE INDEX Friday, Feb. 10, 8:30 a.m. -- Producer prices of finished goods probably increased by 0.4% in January, says the MMS forecast. Most likely, suppliers used the first of the year to pass along price markups. Excluding food and energy, core prices likely also increased by 0.4% in January. In December, both the total PPI and the core index edged up only 0.2%. However, the Labor Dept. is scheduled to release new seasonal factors to the PPI data that may change the December increases.
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