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Employment Index in U.S. Climbs to Highest Level Since 2008

March 12 (Bloomberg) -- A measure of job prospects in the U.S. rose in February to the highest level in more than three years, another sign the labor market recovery is gaining traction.

The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index increased 1.4 percent to 107.5, the highest level since July 2008, from 106 the prior month, figures from the New York-based private research group showed today. The measure climbed 6.1 percent from February 2011.

The report is consistent with Labor Department data last week that showed payroll growth exceeded 200,000 for a third month and unemployment held at a three-year low. Gains in wages that come from a better jobs market help sustain household spending, especially in the face of elevated gas prices.

“Rapid job growth is likely to continue in the next several months,” Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board, said today in a statement.

The Employment Trends Index aggregates eight labor-market indicators to forecast short-term hiring trends. On average, the gauge 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 seven of the index’s eight components contributed to the increase in the gauge. These included a decline in the number of Americans saying jobs are hard to get, a jump in temporary employment and a drop in applications for unemployment benefits, the Conference Board said.

Payrolls grew by 227,000 workers last month after a gain of 284,000 in January, the Labor Department’s report showed on March 9. The jobless rate held at 8.3 percent, the lowest level since February 2009. In the past six months, employers created about 1.2 million jobs, the most over a similar span since 2006.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Kowalski in Washington at akowalski13@bloomberg.net

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

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