Wednesday, 21 February, 2024

A Look at Recent US Unemployment Trends


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The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) was virtually unchanged in December, after seven consecutive monthly increases that started in May. The index now stands at 99.01, down from 99.05 (an upward revision) in November. The index is currently down 9.2 percent from a year ago.

“The latest Employment Trends Index numbers signal that the labor market recovery has paused, and in the coming months employment will likely remain stagnant or even dip,” said Gad Levanon, Head of The Conference Board Labor Markets Institute. “As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise and downside risks grow, it appears unlikely that the labor market will resume its recovery over the next few months. We expect in-person services such as restaurants, hotels, entertainment, passenger transportation, and personal and childcare services to take the biggest employment hit. The number of jobs in most other industries should continue to grow.”

December’s slight decrease was driven by negative contributions from three of the eight components. From the largest negative contributor to the smallest, the components were: Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance; Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get”; and Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now.

The Employment Trends Index is a leading composite index for employment. Turning points in the index indicate that a turning point in employment is about to occur. The Employment Trends Index aggregates eight leading indicators of employment, each of which has proven accurate in its own area. Aggregating individual indicators into a composite index filters out “noise” to show underlying trends more clearly.

The eight leading indicators of employment aggregated into the Employment Trends Index include:

  • Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get” (The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Survey®)
  • Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance (U.S. Department of Labor)
  • Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now (© National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation)
  • Number of Employees Hired by the Temporary-Help Industry (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers (BLS)
  • Job Openings (BLS)**
  • Industrial Production (Federal Reserve Board)*
  • Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)**

*Statistical imputation for the recent month
**Statistical imputation for two most recent months

The Conference Board publishes the Employment Trends Index monthly, at 10 a.m. ET, on the Monday that follows each Friday release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation report. The technical notes to this series are available on The Conference Board website: http://www.conference-board.org/data/eti.cfm.

About The Conference Board
The Conference Board is the member-driven think tank that delivers trusted insights for what’s ahead. Founded in 1916, we are a non-partisan, not-for-profit entity holding 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt status in the United States. www.conference-board.org.

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