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May 1993, Vol. 116, No. 5
Fehmida R. Sleemi and Phyllis I. Brown
M oderation dominated labor contract negotiations in 1992. Major collective bargaining settlements negotiated in private industry in the year called for changes in wage rates that were lower, on average, than those in the contracts they replaced. Additionally, wage changes provided by settlements in 1992 were, on average, at the lowest level since 1988. Furthermore, the more moderate settlements were accompanied by a record low number of major work stoppages (29) in 1992. (Data on major settlements cover bargaining units of 1,000 or more workers; data on major work stoppages cover strikes and lockouts involving 1,000 or more workers.)
Major economic indicators in 1992 may have posed somewhat of a quandary for negotiators. Gross domestic product rose at the fastest pace since 1989, and with price changes at their lowest level since 1986, inflation was not a concern. (See table1.1 ) Boosted by increases in output and a decline in labor hours, labor productivity in the nonfarm business sector posted the largest increase since 1972, and only moderate increases were recorded in employers' costs for compensation as measured by the Employment Cost Index and unit labor costs. Despite various signs of an improving economy, concern about jobs remained for those at the bargaining table. The unemployment rate continued rising during the first half of 1992, and announcements regarding job cuts-reflecting slow demand, technological changes, and restructuring by companies-persisted throughout the year in many of the industries in which bargaining was scheduled.
This excerpt is from an article published in the May 1993 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 This article uses annual average data from the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U), Another way to measure price change is the December-to-December change discussed in Richard C. Bahr, "Consumer price rise slows further in 1992," pp.53-56
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