- Associated Press - Thursday, April 30, 2020

BALTIMORE (AP) - Before the coronavirus outbreak led to 30 million job losses, the average gains in wages and benefits had been steadily rising for the first three months of this year.

The Employment Cost Index rose 0.8% in the first quarter, the Labor Department said Thursday. The measure of wages and benefits has increased 2.8% over the past 12 months, an average that has been relatively consistent since 2018.

Wages and salaries, which account for 70% of compensation costs, climbed 0.9%. Benefit costs, which cover retirement programs and health insurance, increased 0.4%.

But the job market has since cratered across the country, as COVID-19 led to the shuttering of offices, stores, factories and schools. The government reported separately on Thursday that 30 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in the past six weeks

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