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story.lead_photo.caption Workers build an apartment and retail complex in Nashville, Tenn., in October. The U.S. Labor Department reported Wednesday that productivity had its best showing in three years in the third quarter.

U.S. worker productivity up 3% in 3Q

WASHINGTON -- U.S. worker productivity rose 3 percent in the third quarter, the best showing in three years, while labor costs fell for a second-straight quarter, the Labor Department reported Wednesday.

The increase in productivity in the July-September quarter was double the 1.5 percent gain in the second quarter, and both quarters were up significantly from a scant 0.1 percent rise in the first three months of the year. Labor costs fell 0.2 percent after an even bigger 1.2 percent decline in the second quarter.

The third-quarter figure for productivity was unchanged from an initial estimate while labor costs were initially estimated to have risen by 0.5 percent.

Economists are hopeful that the upturn in productivity may be a sign that this key measure of living standards is improving after a prolonged period of weakness.

-- The Associated Press

VW manager gets 7 years for cover-up

DETROIT -- A Volkswagen senior manager was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison for concealing software that was used to evade pollution limits on nearly 600,000 diesel vehicles.

Lawyers spent roughly 90 minutes giving different views about Oliver Schmidt's culpability in the scandal. But Judge Sean Cox sided with prosecutors, calling Schmidt a "key conspirator" who viewed the cover-up as an opportunity to "shine" and "climb the corporate ladder."

Schmidt led VW's engineering and environmental office in Michigan from 2012 to early 2015. He met with key California regulators in 2015 but didn't disclose the rogue software. The government says he later misled investigators and destroyed documents.

Schmidt's lawyers argued that his role only heated up in 2015, years after others at the company hatched the scheme.

-- The Associated Press

Viagra-maker Pfizer to roll out generic

TRENTON, N.J. -- The little blue pill that's helped millions of men in the bedroom is turning white. Drugmaker Pfizer is launching its own cheaper generic version of Viagra rather than lose most sales when the impotence pill gets its first generic competition next week.

Pfizer Inc. will begin selling the white pill at half the $65-a-pill retail price on Monday, when its patent-protected monopoly ends. Generic-maker Teva Pharmaceuticals can start selling its version then but isn't disclosing the price.

Many more generics go on sale next summer, which will steadily slash the price of generics, possibly by 90 percent.

Launched in 1998, Viagra was the first pill for impotence. It transformed a private frustration for many aging men into a publicly discussed medical condition with an easy treatment, far more appealing than options like penile injections and implants. Pfizer's early TV ads for the little blue pill even coined the term erectile dysfunction, ED for short.

-- The Associated Press

China tops in patent requests, U.N. says

GENEVA -- The U.N.'s intellectual property agency says China racked up a record 1.3 million patent applications last year, topping the combined total in the United States, Japan, Korea and Europe.

The World Intellectual Property Organization reported Wednesday that innovators worldwide filed 3.1 million patent applications in 2016, up 8.3 percent from a year earlier, marking the seventh-straight yearly increase.

China alone accounted for 98 percent of that increase, with its patent office receiving 236,600 more applications than in 2015.

The report said trademark applications shot up by 16 percent to about 7 million, and worldwide industrial design applications increased by 10.4 percent to almost 1 million, again led by growth in China.

-- The Associated Press

U.S. loses its lead on lasers, study finds

Europe and Asia have taken a significant lead over the United States in the race to field the next generation of high-intensity lasers for use in medicine, nuclear weapons development, manufacturing and science, according to a new study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

Today, 80 percent to 90 percent of new petawatt-class lasers, including all of the most powerful research devices, are found outside the United States even though the first high-intensity laser was developed in 1996 at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

U.S. companies such as Coherent Radiation and Spectra-Physics, along with defense contractors General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman, pioneered the 20th century commercial laser industry. Lasers today play a role in manufacturing, medical and information technology markets valued at a cumulative $7.5 trillion, according to the report.

One petawatt is equal to the combined solar power that strikes Arizona, California and Nevada on a sunny day at noon, according to the report.

-- The Washington Post

Photo by AP/Broward County Sheriff's Office
This January 2017 file photo provided by the Broward County Sheriff's Office shows German Volkswagen executive Oliver Schmidt.

Business on 12/07/2017

Print Headline: U.S. worker productivity up 3% in 3Q VW manager gets 7 years for cover-up Viagra-maker Pfizer to roll out generic China tops in patent requests, U.N. says U.S. loses its lead on lasers, study finds

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