WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. productivity grew at a strong 3.4% rate in the January-March quarter, the best showing in more than four years, the Labor Department reported Thursday. It was an encouraging sign that productivity may finally be improving after a long stretch of weakness.

The first quarter gain was more than double the 1.3% increase in the fourth quarter, although it was slightly lower than an initial estimate of 3.6% made a month ago. Labor costs fell during the first quarter, declining by 1.6% following a 0.4% drop in the fourth quarter.

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