By Timothy R. Homan
April 6 (Bloomberg) -- A measure of U.S. job prospects fell in March for a 14th straight month, indicating the labor market will deteriorate further, a private report showed.
The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index last month decreased 2.3 percent to 90.1, the lowest since February 1994, from a revised 92.2 in February, the New York-based research group said today. The index declined 22 percent from a year earlier.
Payroll employment is likely to keep dropping as companies cut costs to ride out the recession, now in its second year. About 5.1 million jobs have been lost since the start of the slump, the worst in the postwar era. Recent reports indicate it will be tough for President Barack Obama to follow through on his pledge to save or create 3.5 million jobs.
“The most intense stage of job losses may be behind us,” Gad Levanon, a senior economist at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “However, the drops in each of the eight components of the ETI in March signal that many more jobs will disappear over the next several months.”
The index aggregates eight labor-market indicators to forecast short-term hiring trends. On average, the employment trends gauge can predict job declines six to nine months in advance and can signal a rebound in hiring as many as three months before the fact, the Conference Board said.
Employers cut 663,000 workers in March and the jobless rate surged to 8.5 percent, the highest level in more than a quarter century, the Labor Department reported on April 3.
U.S. companies are stepping up firings as demand weakens. Job cuts have been spreading from manufacturers such as Johnson Controls Inc. and Dana Holding Corp. to service providers like International Business Machines Corp. and even the U.S. Postal Service.