U.S. workers were more productive in the second quarter, a sharp turnaround from grim first-quarter figures.

    The Labor Department says that productivity increased 2.5 percent at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, after plummeting 4.5 percent in the first quarter. 

  Productivity measures output per hour of work. Greater productivity increases living standards because it enables companies to pay their workers more without having to increase prices, which can boost inflation.