Business manager shakes hands with a young cheerful man, welcoming him as a new team member.

The Conference Board Employment Trends Index climbed to 119.18, after coming in at 118.15 in January (revised from 117.62). This suggests steady job growth ahead, though economic growth rates are expected to decelerate compared to 2021. 

“Still, with the labor market being short 2.1 million jobs, returning to pre-pandemic employment levels is likely in 2022,” said Frank Steemers, Senior Economist at The Conference Board.

Seven of the eight labor market indicators drove the index’s growth last month, ordered from the greatest contributor to the least: 

  • Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance
  • Industrial Production
  • Job Openings
  • Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales
  • Number of Employees Hired by the Temporary-Help Industry
  • Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get”
  • Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now

“Hiring and retention continue to pose major challenges, which we don’t expect to dissipate in the foreseeable future,” Steemers added. “The unemployment rate has already dropped below 4% and is expected to approach 3% by the end of 2022. In such a tight labor market, wage growth will likely remain elevated. In particular, workers in in-person services, such as restaurants, personal care, and hotels, are now benefiting from a tight labor market.”