The productivity of U.S. workers grew at the slowest rate in almost two years during the third quarter, July through September.

Thursday's Labor Department report showed productivity growing at a 1.9 percent annual rate.

Analysts say it could signal a stronger job market ahead because American companies seem to be running out of ways to squeeze more work out of their existing staffs. That means companies may have to hire new workers to meet growing demand in the future.

A separate government report showed the number of Americans requesting jobless compensation last week dropped by 19,000, to a total of 332,000.

Friday will bring a more detailed look at the U.S. job market when the government announces the unemployment rate and the number of new jobs created last month.

Some parts of this report contributed by AP and Bloomberg.