A measure of U.S. job prospects in March declined for the first time in six months, indicating a pause in the recent progress of the labor market. The index now stands at 111.20, down from 111.43 (an upward revision) in February. The March figure is 3.7 percent higher than a year ago.
"Despite the decline in March, the Employment Trends index is still signaling moderate job growth in the coming months," said Gad Levanon, Director of Macroeconomic Research at The Conference Board, according to a statement. "The current trend suggests faster growth than the disappointing increase of 88,000 jobs in March. At the same time, 200,000 new jobs per month in the current economic environment is not in the cards either."
March's weakening in the ETI was driven by negative contributions from four of its eight components. The declining indicators - from the largest negative contributor to the smallest - were Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now, Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales, Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance, and Job Openings.
The 88,000 gain in payrolls was the smallest in nine months and less than the most-pessimistic forecast in a Bloomberg survey, after a revised 268,000 February increase, Labor Department figures showed on April 5. The jobless rate fell to 7.6 percent, the lowest since December 2008, from 7.7 percent.
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.