A measure of job prospects in the U.S. fell in September for a second month, indicating the labor market will struggle to improve through yearend.
The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index declined 0.4 percent, the most in five months, to 100.95 from the prior month’s revised reading of 101.37, the New York-based private research group said today. The measure was up 4.4 percent from September 2010.
Today’s figures follow a Labor Department report last week that showed payrolls rose by a more-than-forecast 103,000 workers in September while the unemployment rate held at 9.1 percent. Even faster job growth may be needed to reduce the jobless rate, keep consumers spending and boost the economy.
“Weak job growth is likely to continue for the rest of 2011,” Gad Levanon, associate director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “Even as the economy remains slow going into the next year, we do not expect a major acceleration in layoffs because employers have kept their workforce quite lean since the 2008-09 recession.”
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.
Six of the eight indicators weighed against the overall gauge last month. An increase in the number of consumers saying jobs were hard to get in September, more first-time claims for unemployment benefits and a rising number of part-time workers for economic reasons were among the components that contributed to the drop, the Conference Board said.
The Labor Department’s payrolls report, released on Oct. 7 also showed companies added 137,000 workers last month, more than the median estimate in the Bloomberg News survey.
Consumer spending slowed in August as incomes dropped for the first time in almost two years. Purchases rose 0.2 percent after a 0.7 percent increase the prior month, Commerce Department figures showed Sept. 30.
Citigroup Inc., the third-biggest U.S. bank, is among firms that have turned more cautious about hiring. It said last month it will limit hiring to only “critical” jobs as the economic slowdown continues and revenue slumps.
“We are currently only filling positions we believe are critical to the line of business or function,” Shannon Bell, a spokeswoman for the New York-based bank, said in an interview Sept. 15.
Federal, state and local agencies are also cutting staff. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory is offering employees buyouts to try to cut its workforce in preparation for expected government budget cuts.
The buyouts will be offered to 1,350 full- and part-time employees who’ve been at the lab for at least a year, Bob Noun, a spokesman for the lab, said last week. The Golden, Colorado- based lab, funded by the U.S. Energy Department, expects to shed 100 to 150 employees, about 9 percent of its staff, Noun said in a telephone interview.
Some companies are planning to boost payrolls. Ford Motor Co. last week said it has committed to add about 12,000 hourly jobs in its U.S. manufacturing plants by 2015 as part of an agreement with the United Auto Workers.
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