In this Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, photo, Carmen Nazario of Albany, N.Y., fills out an employment application during a job fair at the Marriott Hotel in Colonie, N.Y. The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 355,000, a possible sign of a healing job market. But officials cautioned that the figures were distorted by Superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
WASHINGTON (AP) - Americans' wages increased at a faster rate from January through March than the previous quarter, a trend that helped boost economic growth. But their benefits barely grew.
The Labor Department says an index that measures wages and benefits rose 0.3 percent during the first quarter. That's down from a 0.4 percent gain in the October-December quarter and the smallest gain in a year.
Wages and salaries rose 0.5 percent, up from the 0.3 percent gain in the previous quarter. But benefits, which include health insurance and pension contributions, rose just 0.1 percent after a 0.6 percent rise in the fourth quarter.
Higher pay has helped consumers shake off an increase in Social Security taxes. Consumer spending rose in the first quarter at the fastest pace in more than two years.
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