Employment Index in U.S. Climbed in August on More Job Openings

A measure of job prospects in the U.S. rose in August for a second month as more positions opened up.

The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index increased 0.5 percent to 108.59, the highest since July 2008, from the prior month’s revised reading of 108.04, the New York-based private research group said today. The measure rose 6.2 percent from August 2011.

“Slow job growth will continue in the short term,” Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board, said today in a statement. “In such an environment, it’s difficult to foresee the economy adding much more than 100,000 jobs per month.”

The report follows Labor Department data last week that showed employers added fewer workers than forecast in August, while the unemployment rate fell as more people left the labor force. Weaker hiring and persistent joblessness help explain why Federal Reserve policy makers meeting this week may opt for additional easing to boost the economy.

Payrolls rose by 96,000 workers in August after a revised 141,000 increase in July that was smaller than initially estimated, the Labor Department said on Sept. 7. The median estimate of economists in a Bloomberg survey called for a 130,000 advance.

The jobless rate unexpectedly dropped to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent, the Labor Department report also showed last week. Unemployment has been stuck above 8 percent since February 2009, the longest stretch in monthly records going back to 1948.

Hiring Trends

The Employment Trends Index aggregates eight labor-market indicators to forecast short-term hiring trends. On average, it can signal a rebound in hiring as little as three months before the fact and can predict job declines six to nine months in advance, the Conference Board said.

Improvements in four of the index’s eight components contributed to the rise in the overall gauge, today’s report showed. These included more job openings, a larger share of firms with positions they’re not able to fill right now, and a drop in the number of consumers saying jobs were hard to get.

Faster hiring is needed to spur consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. The U.S. has managed to recover 4.1 million of the 8.8 million jobs lost as a result of the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009.

To contact the reporter on this story: Shobhana Chandra in Washington at schandra1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at cwellisz@bloomberg.net

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