The Conference Board Employment Trends Index increased in January – the ninth consecutive monthly increase since May of last year.
The index now stands at 99.27, up from 98.55 (a downward revision) in December. The index is currently down 10.0% from a year ago.
“The ETI has been increasing in recent months, with the largest contributing component being the number of jobs in the temporary help industry,” said Gad Levanon, head of The Conference Board Labor Markets Institute.
“Over the next few months, expect some uncertainty around job growth, especially if some potentially adverse Covid 19 developments manifest – namely, the rapid spread of more aggressive virus strains.”
Levanon added, “On the upside, however, by spring we expect strong job growth to resume and continue throughout the remainder of the year.”
In January, the employment level was still nearly 9 million jobs lower relative to pre-pandemic levels. The published unemployment rate significantly dropped from 6.7 to 6.3%, and the true rate, after adjusting for a misclassification error, was 6.9%, the board pointed out.
By late spring, the board said it expects that the number of new infections will be significantly lower due to the rollout of vaccinations, possibly prompting businesses to start adding jobs again at an accelerated pace.
Most of the job gains are expected for in-person services such as restaurants, hotels, recreation, passenger transportation and childcare services. Between now and the end of the year the unemployment rate could drop to about 5%, the board forecasts.
By the end of the year, around four million jobs could be gained and the unemployment rate could drop to about 5%, it said., noting that government stimulus investment could lead to bigger job gains.