U.S. Employment Trends Slip Slightly In September

The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index slipped in September, following a larger decline in August. The index’s September reading stands at 132.74, down slightly from 132.78 in August. Despite the dip, the index is up 3.8 percent from where it was one year ago.

“Several components that led to the decline in the Employment Trends Index in August and September were impacted by hurricanes Harvey and Irma,” says Gad Levanon, chief economist, North America, at The Conference Board. “The Employment Trends Index is expected to pick up again, signaling further employment growth and more wage pressures in the months ahead.”

In calculating its Employment Trends Index, The Conference Board aggregates eight labor-market indicators that it considers accurate in their own areas. Aggregating indicators into a composite index filters out “noise,” more clearly revealing trends within the data. The indicators come from the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Federal Reserve Board and other sources.

The Conference Board attributes September’s slip in the index to a large increase in the Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance indicator. The other indicators monitored for the index include the Percentage of Firms with Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now, the Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers, Industrial Production, the Number of Employees Hired by the Temporary-Help Industry, the Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get,” Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales and Job Openings.

Contrasting The Conference Board’s findings, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the unemployment rate declined to 4.2 percent in September. However, the economy did lose 33,000 jobs that month, the first monthly decline in jobs in seven years. The Department of Labor attributes the losses to the impact of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and their localized effects on nonfarm payroll employment. It found no discernible effect on the national unemployment rate from the hurricanes.

Levanon says, “Given the impact of the hurricanes in August and September, [the October 6] job report does not tell us much about the current trend in employment. Downward revisions to previous months, along with this month’s report, provide reason to slightly reduce expectations about the current trend in job growth.

“[October 6’s] report was more helpful in gauging the tightening of the labor market and wage growth. The unemployment rate, which according to the BLS should not have been impacted by the hurricanes, dropped to 4.2 percent, the lowest since February 2001, and at the same time more people are getting off the sidelines with the labor force participation rising to 63.1 percent, the highest rate since March 2014. In other good news, wage growth seems to have accelerated in recent months, reaching 2.9 percent in the 12 months ending in September, and was revised upwards for July and August suggesting that this improvement is not only storm related.”

filed under October 2017
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