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Employment Index in U.S. Declines for First Time Since May

April 9 (Bloomberg) -- A measure of job prospects in the U.S. fell in March, the first decline in 10 months, a sign labor-market gains may decelerate.

The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index dropped 0.2 percent to 107.3 from a more than three-year high of 107.5 in February, figures from the New York-based private research group showed today. The measure climbed 5.2 percent from March 2011.

The report is consistent with Labor Department data last week that showed payroll grew in March at half the pace as the previous month, while the unemployment rate fell to 8.2 percent as workers left the labor force.

“After five months of strong growth, the ETI declined slightly in March,” Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board, said today in a statement. He said that the employment gains from December through January, when payrolls advanced by 246,000 a month on average, “may not be a sustainable trend.”

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.

Decreases in three of the index’s eight components propelled last month’s drop. Those included a rise in the number of Americans saying jobs are hard to get, a drop in temporary employment and fewer companies reporting they were not able to fill openings, the Conference Board said.

Payrolls grew by 120,000 workers last month after a gain of 240,000 in February, the Labor Department’s report showed on April 6. The 8.2 percent jobless rate was the lowest since January 2009.

To contact the reporter on this story: Timothy R. Homan in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Wellisz at

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