Spring fling of job gains on tap, Conference Board says

April 14, 2017

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The private sector has maintained a steady streak of job gains, which now number more than 70 consecutive months. And while employment growth in March was well south of what economists had anticipated, the employment train is poised to chug along for the duration of the spring season, The Conference Board recently projected.

Gad Levanon, chief economist for the Conference Board's North American division, noted that in addition to the hundreds of thousands of jobs that have been added to the economy since January, the Conference Board's Employment Trends Index is gaining strength. In March, the measure rose to 131.43, up from a downwardly revised 131 in February. Up 4.3 percent on a year-over-year basis, the ETI got its biggest bounce from manufacturing and trade sales, two of eight components gauged in the statistical measure. Other buoyant indicators that lifted March's ETI included part-time employment as well as industrial production.

"The Employment Trends Index continued to expand in March, suggesting that solid job growth will continue through the spring," Levanon explained. "The surprisingly weak job growth in March is mostly noise in an otherwise healthy and tight labor market."

February warmth led to brisk hiring pace
The Labor Department came back with a report the first Friday in April that surprised economists, noting that employers added just 98,000 positions in the month of March, a stark dip from the over 200,000 jobs created in February. However, experts noted at the time that because February was an unusual month weather-wise - warmer than normal for much of the country - employers took advantage by going on a hiring binge.

It's little wonder employers are hiring as much as they are, given how well companies are performing financially as of late. With the first quarter having concluded, organizations are reporting their earnings, and according to The Wall Street Journal, business owners' returns are at their highest point in more than five years. For example, among S&P 500 companies, their earnings are expected to have jumped nearly 10 percent through 2017's first three-month period compared to the same stretch last year. The same goes for revenue, with S&P firms logging their biggest bump - 7.1 percent - in more than five years.

Economic Confident Index picks up steam
The U.S. economy's robust vital signs have consumers feeling highly confident about the direction in which the country's fiscal compass is pointed. As of April 11, Gallup's Economic Confidence Index notched six points higher from the poll done a week earlier. More specifically, for the week that concluded April 9, nearly 33 percent of respondents described the economy as "good" or "excellent," while roughly 20 percent viewed it as "poor."

Despite these highly favorable readings, investors hedged their bets on Wall Street on word that the value of the U.S. dollar may be intensifying too rapidly in comparison with other countries' legal tender. However, according to the Wall Street Journal's most recent Dollar Index reading, the greenback's value has slipped 0.5 percent.

Nevertheless, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 59 points at the close of trading on April 12. The S&P 500 shed eight points, down 0.3 percent from 24 hours earlier. The NASDAQ also lost ground after falling 30 points to wrap up the day at 5,8316.16.

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