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Employment Index in U.S. Climbed in February by Most in a Year

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March 11 (Bloomberg) -- A measure of job prospects in the U.S. climbed in February by the most in a year, showing a strengthening labor market.

The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index increased 1.1 percent to 111.14 from the prior month’s revised reading of 109.93 that was higher than initially reported, the New York-based private research group said today. The measure advanced 3.2 percent from February 2012.

The gauge “is signaling an improving employment environment,” Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board, said today in a statement. Still, budget cuts by the federal government are “likely to slow the pace of job creation in the near term,” he said.

Today’s report follows Labor Department figures released last week showing U.S. job growth surged in February as builders, health care providers and retailers pushed the unemployment rate to a four-year low.

Employers added 236,000 last month after a revised 119,000 gain in January that was smaller than first estimated, Labor Department data showed March 8. The jobless rate dropped to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008, from 7.9 percent.

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 seven of the index’s eight components contributed to the gain in the overall gauge, today’s report showed. These included a larger share of firms with positions they’re not able to fill right now, a gain in the hiring of temporary workers, more job openings and fewer jobless claims.

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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