The pay and benefits of U.S. workers increased in the second quarter of this year, the government said Thursday in a report showing that employers are still paying more to hold on to their work force even as the world's richest economy tries to struggle out of a slump.

The Labor Department said its closely watched Employment Cost Index, a broad gauge of what employers pay in wages, salaries and benefits, rose 0.9 percent for the three months ended in June. That was lower than the 1.1 percent gain seen in the first quarter, but closely in line with a 1.0 percent rise economists polled by Reuters, on average, were expecting.

However, for the 12 months ended this June, the employment cost index rose 3.9 percent, substantially less than the 4.4 percent gain seen for the same 12-month period a year earlier.

During the latest quarter, wages and salaries rose 1.0, the same as in the previous quarter. But benefit costs gained 1.0 percent, which was down from the 1.3 percent rise seen in the first quarter.