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Employment Index in U.S. Declines for Third Month in Four

Oct. 9 (Bloomberg) -- A measure of job prospects in the U.S. declined in September for the third time in the last four months, indicating the labor market will struggle to improve through early next year.

The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index decreased 0.3 percent to 107.86 from the prior month’s revised reading of 108.23, the New York-based private research group said today. The measure climbed 5.4 percent from September 2011.

“The U.S. economy entered a soft patch in the spring and the result has been lackluster job growth, which is likely to continue through the first half of 2013,” Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board, said in a statement.

The report follows Labor Department data last week that showed the unemployment rate last month dropped to 7.8 percent, the lowest level since January 2009. Payrolls rose by 114,000 workers in September after a revised 142,000 increase in August, the Labor Department said on Oct. 5.

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.

Five of the index’s eight components contributed to the decrease in the overall gauge, today’s report showed. These included a jump in the number of people working part-time for economic reasons as a share of all part-time workers.

An increase in first-time claims for jobless benefits, a drop in the number of temporary workers and a decrease in job openings also weighed on the employment measure.

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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