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Conference Board's Employment Trends Index Largely Unchanged in December

01/11/2021 | 10:29am EDT

By Xavier Fontdegloria

An index measuring employment trends in the U.S. remained broadly unchanged in December, signaling the job market recovery seen in the last seven months halted, data from the Conference Board showed Monday.

The Conference Board Employment Trends Index came in at 99.01 in December, marginally down compared with a revised 99.05 for November.

Until December, the Employment Trends Index had risen uninterruptedly since May, but it remains far from recovering pre-pandemic levels. The index is down 9.2% from a year ago.

The release of the index follows Friday's employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics which showed U.S. nonfarm payrolls down by 140,000, the first fall in seven months, amid the resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic.

"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.

It appears unlikely that the labor market will resume its recovery over the next few months as the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise and downside risks grow, Mr. Levanon said, noting that in-person services such as restaurants, hotels, entertainment, passenger transportation, and personal and childcare services are set to take the biggest employment hit.

"The number of jobs in most other industries should continue to grow," he said.

The Employment Trends Index aggregates eight labor market-related indicators to show underlying trends in employment conditions. December's slight decrease was driven by negative contributions from three of the eight components, which are 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 number of employees hired by the temporary-help industry, industrial production, job openings, the ratio of involuntarily part-time to all part-time workers, and real manufacturing and trade sales components didn't contribute negatively to the index in December.

Write to Xavier Fontdegloria at xavier.fontdegloria@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

01-11-21 1028ET

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