September 17, 2012 / 9:44 AM / in 6 years

Labor costs growth shows rebalancing in euro zone

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Labor costs grew moderately but unevenly across the euro zone in the second quarter, showing that the economies most stricken by the sovereign of the crisis were adjusting to become more cost competitive as they struggle to raise export market shares.

Nominal hourly labour costs in the 17 countries using the euro grew 1.6 percent in total in the April-June quarter compared to the same period of last year, with wages up 1.7 percent and other labour costs, like taxes and social security contributions, up 1.2 percent.

But in Ireland, Greece and Portugal - countries which struggle to put their public finances in order under economic reform programmes set by international lenders - labour costs grew much more slowly than elsewhere.

In Ireland, which has already become the third biggest contributor to the euro zone trade surplus in July, labour costs grew 0.4 percent year-on-year. In Portugal they showed an increase of 0.7 percent. In Greece, data was available only for the first quarter, showing labour costs plunged 11.5 percent.

In Spain, where a quarter of the workforce is without jobs and where the government has been pushing through reforms because it might seek euro zone help for government financing, labour costs rose 0.5 percent.

Italy, which is also reforming to show markets that it can service its huge public debt despite slow growth, labour costs grew 1.1 percent.

But in Germany - the euro zone’s biggest economy, which produces more than half of the single currency area’s exports - labour costs climbed 2.5 percent and in the second biggest economy, France, they rose 2.0 percent.

Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; editing by Rex Merrifield

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