WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – An index that measures the price of U.S. labor moderated in the fourth quarter. The employment cost index climbed 0.6% in the fourth quarter after a 0.7% increase in both the second and the third quarters. The gain was in line with Wall Street expectations. Prior to the report, economists said a 0.6% increase in the ECI would not move the Federal Reserve closer to liftoff. Over the past 12 months, employment costs have risen 2.2%, the same rate as the third quarter. The ECI is a closely followed gauge that reflects how much companies, governments and nonprofit institutions pay their employees in wages and benefits.