Overall employee compensation costs rose 0.3 percent in the first quarter of 2013 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employee compensation costs rose 1.7 percent annually between March of 2013 and March 2012. The quarterly increases were down slightly from the 0.4 percent increase during the last three months of 2012. The cost of worker benefits declined by 0.1 percent during the time period, while employee salaries and wages increased by 0.5 percent.

Employees wages were up 0.5 percent during the first few months of the year and, like compensation costs, increased by 1.7 percent between March 2012 and 2013.

The cost of benefits increased 1.5 percent year-to-year, a significant improvement over March 2012 when when benefit costs were up 2.8 percent over 2011. Quarterly, benefits costs actually declined in 0.1 percent in early 2013.

Worker costs went up slightly more quickly in the natural resources, construction, and maintenance sectors than it did for sales and office occupations.

Wage expansion has been very gradual as sluggish economic growth and elevated unemployment levels have made employers in both the small business marketplace and at large corporations reluctant to increase pay, reports Bloomberg.

"There's a lot of slack in the labor market and the economy's recovering only slowly," said RBS Securities economist Guy Berger in advance of the BLS release."There's very little upward pressure on compensation for American workers."

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