National employment index trends upward in December

The last month of 2012 turned out to be a pretty good one for employment in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released it's final 2012 employment situation report and said the country added 155,000 jobs in December, above the 2012 average of 153,000 per month. ADP, a payroll service provider, also released a jobs report that found the private sector had increased employment by 215,000 positions during the month.

Even though the new year is off and running, 2012 employment news keeps trickling in. Another crucial national employment index showed big gains during December, which adds to the list of positive reports for employers and recruiting agencies.

Four-year high for index
The Employment Trend Index released by The Conference Board, a New York private research firm, increased to 109.02 in December, up from 108.19 in November, and represented the third straight month the report rose. The index's last reading for the year was also up 3.1 percent from December 2011 and marked a four-year high not achieved since pre-recession times when the index reached 110.51 during July 2008.

Officials at the board noted the December increase was encouraging moving forward, but also tempered the enthusiasm a bit for employers and staffing agencies by warning weak economic expansion to start 2013 could potentially undercut the gains made in employment.

"After posting a significant increase in December, following an upward revision in November, the Employment Trends Index is improving," said Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at The Conference Board. "However, if economic activity continues to expand slowly in the first half of 2013, it would be difficult for employers to maintain the current rate of job growth."

Four of eight indicators improve
The December increase was led by gains in four of the eight components the Board aggregates to reach its index reading. The four improving indicators were initial claims for unemployment insurance, percentage of respondents who say they find "jobs hard to get," ratio of involuntarily part-time to all part-time workers and industrial production. The last improving component suggests manufacturing recruiters could be in high demand among businesses encouraged by the continued economic growth in the industry.

The four other indicators that the Board considers are percentage of firms with positions not able to fill right now, number of employees hired by the temporary-help industry, job openings and real manufacturing and trade sales.