May 2013 Conference Board Employment Index Suggests Little Employment Growth this Summer

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The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index – which forecasts employment for the next 6 months – rose marginally in its May 2013 release.

  • The Conference Board believes their index is signalling little improvement in jobs through the summer;
  • Econintersect‘s own employment index is saying that economic pressures should lead to better employment numbers throughout the summer.

From the Conference Board:

The Conference Board Employment Trends Index™ (ETI) increased slightly in May. The index now stands at 111.76, up from 111.11 (a downward revision) in April. The ETI figure for May is 3.0 percent higher than a year ago.

While the increase in the Employment Trends Index (ETI) in May erased the small declines of the previous two months, overall, the growth in the ETI has remained weak,” said Gad Levanon, Director of Macroeconomic Research at The Conference Board. “Taken together with other recent indicators of economic activity, the ETI is suggesting that a significant improvement in employment growth is unlikely this summer.”

May’s improvement in the ETI was driven by positive contributions from seven of its eight components. The increasing indicators — from the largest positive contributor to the smallest — were Number of Temporary Employees, Job Openings, Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now, Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales, Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get”, Industrial Production, and Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers.

To add context to this index, the following graph compares BLS non-farm payrolls, the Econintersect Employment Index, and The  Conference Board ETI. Econintersect uses non-labor and mostly non-monetary economic pulse points in constructing its index, while The Conference Board uses mostly elements of employment data.

Comparing BLS Non-Farm Employment YoY Improvement (blue line, left axis) with Econintersect Employment Index (red line, left axis) and The Conference Board ETI (yellow line, right axis)


The graph above offsets the Conference Board ETI by 6 months. Econintersect sees employment strengthening over the coming months. The bottom line is that jobs growth should strengthen.

Caveats on the Employment Trends Index

According to the Conference Board:

The Employment Trends Index aggregates eight labor-market indicators, each of which has proven accurate in its own area. Aggregating individual indicators into a composite index filters out “noise” to show underlying trends more clearly.

The eight labor-market indicators aggregated into the Employment Trends Index include:

  • Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get” (The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Survey
  • Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance (U.S. Department of Labor)
  • Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now (© National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation)
  • Number of Employees Hired by the Temporary-Help Industry (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Part-Time Workers for Economic Reasons (BLS)
  • Job Openings (BLS)
  • Industrial Production (Federal Reserve Board)
  • Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis)

Unfortunately many of these indices are not accurate in real time being subject to at times significant backward revision.

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