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NEW YORK CITY-Even as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a higher-than-expected monthly loss of jobs last week, the Conference Board said Monday that its nationwide Employment Trends Index for September showed its first increase since January 2008. The report from the locally based research group coincided with one from the Institute for Supply Management that said service-sector activity nationwide also rose during September, a report that buoyed the stock market on Monday.

The Conference Board’s ETI for September was up 0.3% from the revised August number, and now stands at 88.5. In a release, senior economist Gad Levanson says that although the BLS employment numbers were “certainly disappointing,” the ETI “suggests that the trend of declining job losses will continue. But the road to recovery is definitely going to be bumpy and may last unusually long, given the depth of the recession we have experienced.”

Four of the eight labor-market indicators aggregated into the ETI showed improvement: initial claims for unemployment insurance, percentage of firms with positions not able to fill right now, industrial production and real manufacturing and trade sales. Other indicators are the percentage of respondents who say they find jobs hard to get, as measured in a Conference Board survey; and three indicators from the BLS: number of employees hired by the temporary-help industry, part-time workers for economic reasons and job openings.

Two weeks earlier, the Conference Board reported another monthly increase in its Leading Economic Index, with August showing an improvement on July. The LEI had declined for 20 consecutive months since July 2007 before starting to edge upward again in April of this year.

“The LEI has risen for five consecutive months and the coincident economic index has stopped falling. Taken together, this suggests that the recession is bottoming out,” Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein said in a release last month. “These numbers are consistent with the view that after a very severe downturn, a recovery is very near.” He added, however, “the intensity and pattern of that recovery is more uncertain.”

The Tempe, AZ-based ISM said Monday that its Non-Manufacturing Index also showed renewed growth after several consecutive months of contraction. It registered 50.9% percent in September, 2.5 percentage points higher than in August, indicating growth in the non-manufacturing sector after 11 consecutive months of declines.

The ISM reported that several indices related to the NMI also showed growth during September. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index increased 3.8 percentage points to 55.1%, marking the second consecutive month of growth since September 2008. The New Orders Index increased 4.3 percentage points to 54.2%, and the Employment Index increased 0.8 percentage points to 44.3%.

According to the ISM, five non-manufacturing industries reported growth in September: utilities, health care and social assistance; retail trade; construction; and wholesale trade. Thirteen industries surveyd by the ISM reported contraction in September: arts, entertainment and recreation; agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; accommodation and food services; mining; public administration; other services; real estate, rental and leasing; professional, scientific and technical services; information; management of companies and support services; finance and insurance; educational services; and transportation and warehousing.

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