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Employment Index in U.S. Climbs, Showing Job Market Improving

A measure of job prospects in the U.S. climbed in April, indicating the labor market is healing as the world’s largest economy expands.

The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index increased 0.8 percent to 108.04, the highest since July 2008, from the prior month’s revised reading of 107.18, the New York-based private research group said today. The measure rose 7.1 percent from April 2011.

The report follows Labor Department data last week that showed employers added fewer workers than forecast during the month, while the jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 8.1 percent as people left the workforce. Faster hiring is needed to provide the wage growth that would fuel consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.

The measure “is signaling moderate improvements in employment,” Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “The disappointing job gain in April is probably below the current trend and should pick up.”

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 five of the index’s eight components contributed to the advance in the overall gauge in April. These included an increase in the share of companies with positions they’re not able to fill. The measure was also boosted by fewer Americans saying jobs are difficult to get and a gain in the number of temporary workers.

Payrolls climbed 115,000 in April, the smallest increase in six months, after a revised 154,000 gain in March that was larger than initially estimated, the Labor Department said on May 4. The median estimate of 85 economists in a Bloomberg News survey called for a 160,000 advance. The unemployment rate fell to a three-year low of 8.1 percent, and earnings stagnated.

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