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Employment trends index dips in March; first drop since September

April 09, 2012|By Jim Puzzanghera
  • Job-seekers attend a National Career Fair in New York in February.
Job-seekers attend a National Career Fair in New York in February. (Mark Lennihan / Associated…)

Reporting from Washington — The unemployment outlook got a little bit gloomier on Monday.

On the heels of Friday's disappointing jobs report, an indicator of employment trends also was down last month for the first time since the fall as more people said they found it harder to get work and more companies said they had positions they could not fill.

The Conference Board's Employment Trends Index, which combines data from eight economic indicators, decreased slightly to 107.28 in March from 107.47 the previous month, the group said Monday.

The decline was the first since September and comes after five months of strong growth.

“Together with the disappointing job growth released on Friday, and only moderate improvement in economic activity in recent months, it seems that employment growth in December to February, averaging almost 250,000 a month, may not be a sustainable trend,” said Gad Levanon, the group's director of macroeconomic research.

The change was driven by dips in three economic indicators: the percentage of companies with positions they are not able to fill right now, the percentage of respondents in the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Survey who said they find jobs hard to get, and the number of employees hired by the temporary-help industry.

The index is still up more than 5% compared to a year ago. But it was another bit of bad economic news after the government reported Friday that job creation slowed in March to 120,000 new positions.

The lackluster number, which was only about half the job creation of the previous three months, helped drive the Dow Jones industrial average down about 153 points in early trading Monday. U.S. markets were closed on Friday.

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