(Bloomberg) — Wages and salaries in the United States rose at a faster pace in the first quarter, signaling workers are having some success seeking higher pay as the labor market strengthens.

The 0.7 percent advance in pay followed a 0.6 percent increase in the fourth quarter, the Labor Department said Thursday. Private wages, which exclude those government workers, rose 2.8 percent in the last year, the biggest gain since the third quarter of 2008. The agency's employment cost index, which also includes benefits, climbed 0.7 percent in the first quarter from the prior three months.

Bigger paychecks have been a missing piece of the labor- market recovery even with job openings at a 14-year high and the jobless rate close to the Federal Reserve's definition of full employment. The central bankers, who completed a two-day meeting Wednesday, are looking for signs of a pickup in wages and inflation as they weigh when to raise the benchmark interest rate for the first time since 2006.

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