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Wages and Benefits Post Weak 1.5 Percent Gain in 2009

Wages and benefits paid to U.S. workers posted a modest gain in the fourth quarter, ending a year in which recession-battered workers saw their compensation rise by the smallest amount on records going back more than a quarter-century.

The Labor Department said that wages and benefits rose by 0.5 percent in the three months ending in December. For the entire year, wages and benefits were up 1.5 percent, the weakest showing on records that go back to 1982.

The anemic compensation gains have raised concerns about the durability of the economic recovery. The fear is that consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, could falter if households don't have the income growth to support their spending.