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The Conference Board Employment Trends Index (ETI) fell to 116.24 in March, down from 116.75 in February (downward revision). 

Five of the eight labor market indicators drove the index’s decline in March: 

  • Ratio of involuntarily part-time to all part-time workers
  • Number of employees hired by the temporary-help industry
  • Industrial production
  • Initial claims for unemployment insurance
  • Job openings

Despite the decline, the index is still fairly high and has remained so over the last year, reported Selcuk Eren, Senior Economist at The Conference Board. “Overall, the economy continues to add jobs in industries where labor shortages remain, and wage growth remains above its pre-pandemic rate.” 

In addition, the labor force grew to 166.7 million in March, and the labor force participation rate for prime-age workers reached its pre-pandemic level (83.1%). “We expect the economy will continue adding jobs in industries where employment has yet to fully recover from the pandemic,” Eren added, “such as leisure and hospitality and government. Continued job growth is also likely in health care and social assistance, a reflection of our aging society.”

But job growth is slowing in other industries, including manufacturing, construction, transportation and warehousing, finance and insurance, and information services.

“In the second quarter of 2023,” Eren said, “we expect job gains in industries that are still adding jobs to offset losses in industries that have a negative outlook, resulting in continued slow job growth overall. However, in the second half of 2023, we expect job losses to become more widespread as GDP growth turns negative, with the unemployment rate likely to rise to 4.5% by early 2024.”