The Conference Board Employment Trends Index (ETI) increased 1.38 percent in February to 107.46, up 6.1 percent from the same period a year ago. It has posted an increase every consecutive month since October 2011.
The ETI is published each month on the Monday that follows the Friday release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment situation report, which found that the U.S. economy added a better-than-forecast 227,000 jobs in February, while the unemployment rate stayed at 8.3 percent, the lowest in three years. The Labor Department also revised its hiring figures for December and January to show an additional 61,000 jobs. The U.S. economy has now generated an average of 245,000 jobs in the past three months.
The increase in the ETI was driven by improvements in seven of eight of the index’s components, including the percentage of respondents who said they find “Jobs Hard to Get,” the numbers of employees hired by the temporary-help industry, initial claims for unemployment insurance, industrial production, real manufacturing and trade sales, part-time workers for economic reasons, and job openings. The only negative component was the Percentage of Firms with Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now.
The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had dipped in January, rebounded in February to 70.8, up from 61.5 in January. Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was more favorable in February. Those claiming business conditions are “good” increased slightly to 13.3 percent from 13.2 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” decreased from 38.3 percent to 31.2. Consumers’ appraisal of the labor market was also less pessimistic. Those stating jobs are “plentiful” increased to 6.6 percent from 6.2 percent, while those saying jobs are “hard to get” decreased to 38.7 percent from 43.3 percent.
Consumers were also more optimistic about the short-term outlook than they were in January. The proportion of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 18.7 percent from 16.7 percent, while those anticipating business conditions will worsen decreased to 14.6 percent from 11.8 percent.
Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was also more upbeat. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increased to 18.7 percent from 16.4 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined to 16.9 percent from 19.1 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes improved to 15.4 percent from 13.8 percent.
The Conference Board also previously reported a jump in CEO Confidence in January, with about 32 percent of business leaders anticipating an improvement in economic conditions over the next six months, up from 19 percent in the third quarter of 2011. Expectations for their own industries are also more upbeat, with approximately 25 percent expecting conditions to improve in the months ahead, up from 22 percent last quarter.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.