LABOR

U.S. productivity dropped in 3rd quarter

American workers were less efficient in the July-September quarter, pushing down productivity for the first time since late 2015.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that productivity, a measure of economic output for each hour worked, fell 0.3 percent in the third quarter. The drop comes after two quarters of healthy gains.

Productivity has increased just 1.4 percent in the past year, about two-thirds of its long-run average. Weak productivity growth has been a hallmark of the current economic expansion, now in its 11th year. It is a key reason the economy as a whole has expanded more slowly than in previous expansions.

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The report also shows the low unemployment rate is driving up labor costs by forcing companies to pay more, a trend that could eventually raise inflation. For now, economists say many corporations are absorbing the higher costs by reducing profit margins, rather than passing the costs on to customers.

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Labor costs rose at an annual rate of 3.6 percent in the third quarter, and are up 3.1 percent in the past year, the largest annual gain in more than five years.

Associated Press

TECHNOLOGY

Apple outlines how privacy features work

Apple published four new papers on Wednesday outlining technical details of how some of the privacy features in its most recent operating systems work.

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The white papers cover Apple’s photo app, its Safari web browser, the location-based services on its mobile devices and a new service for signing into third-party apps.

In the papers, Apple outlines how its new sign-in system tries to prevent the creation of fake accounts in apps, which has taken on new importance with the advent of bots on social networks.

The company uses machine-learning technology that analyzes whether the device user engages in “ordinary, everyday behavior such as moving from place to place, sending messages, receiving emails, or taking photos,” Apple said. That yields a numerical score that Apple combines with data from its servers to send an assessment to the developer on whether the account creator is a real user.

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Apple also outlined steps it has taken to cut off app developers that circumvent its rules. For example, even when users have turned off location-based services that use an iPhone’s GPS chips, app developers can scan for nearby WiFi networks and Bluetooth devices to approximate the user’s location. Developers now must ask permission for Bluetooth access and explain why it is needed, Apple said.

— Reuters

Also in Business

Airbnb says it will spend the next year verifying all 7 million of its listings as it works to improve user trust. The San Francisco-based home-sharing company says starting next month, it will also rebook guests or refund their money if they check into a property that doesn’t match what was shown online. Last week, a Vice News story revealed a scam by Airbnb hosts who put guests up at inferior properties after claiming the first ones weren’t available. That same day, a shooting at an unauthorized Halloween party at an Airbnb rental in California left five people dead. Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky said the company is also launching a 24-hour hotline for guests, neighbors and others to report problems.

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T-Mobile announced Wednesday that it would let its store personnel add their gender pronouns — say, “she/her/hers” or “they/them/theirs” — to their name tags. Retail employees also can add “ask me my pronouns” to the badges. It’s part of a broader push in corporate America to make transgender and gender-nonconforming workers feel more welcome.

— From news services

Coming today

10 a.m.: Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.

3 p.m.: Federal Reserve releases consumer credit data for September.

Earnings: Disney.

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