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Employment index in U.S. jumped to three-year high in November

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WASHINGTON - A measure of job prospects in the U.S. climbed in November to a three-year high, helped by growth in the world’s largest economy.

The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index jumped 1.2 percent to 103.7, the highest level since September 2008, from 102.4 the prior month that was more than initially estimated, figures from the New York-based private research group showed Monday. The measure rose 6.4 percent from November 2010.

The report is consistent with Labor Department data last week that showed payroll growth picked up while the unemployment rate dropped to 8.6 percent. At the same time, the lack of faster hiring is limiting wage gains and restraining consumers’ ability to boost their spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy.

“The better than expected growth in economic activity in recent months is likely to lead to some acceleration in job growth in the beginning of 2012,” Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board, said Monday in a statement.

The Employment Trends Index aggregates eight labor-market indicators to forecast short-term hiring trends. On average, the gauge can signal a rebound in hiring as little as three months before the fact and can predict job declines six to nine months in advance, the Conference Board said.

Component Improvements

Improvements in seven of the index’s eight components contributed to the increase in the overall gauge. These included a drop in the number of consumers saying jobs were hard to get, fewer first-time claims for unemployment benefits and a rising demand for temporary workers, the Conference Board said.

Payrolls grew by 120,000 workers last month after a gain of 100,000 in October, the Labor Department’s report showed on Dec. 2. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for an increase of 125,000. The jobless rate declined to 8.6 percent, the lowest level since March 2009, from 9 percent, in part due to the departure of Americans from the labor force.

November payrolls included a 50,000 gain in retail trade as companies hired for the holiday shopping season. The number of temporary workers rose 22,300.

Macy’s Inc., the second-biggest U.S. department-store chain, increased mostly part-time staff by 4 percent for the November-December shopping season. See’s Candies Inc., a chocolate maker owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said it would add 5,500 mostly temporary workers.

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