U.S. employment compensation up 0.3 percent in 1Q

WASHINGTON – 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.