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Labor market getting squeezed - index

Conference Board says reading is down 3.2% from January and 21.7% from last year.

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By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney.com contributing writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- An employment trends index decreased sharply in February, the 19th consecutive month of decline, in a report released Monday.

The Conference Board's Employment Trends Index stood at 91 in February, falling 3.2% from the previous month and down 21.7% from the previous year.

The index has declined for 19 consecutive months, falling faster than at any other time in the report's 35-year history, the release said.

"Job losses just keep going," said Gad Levanon, senior economist at The Conference Board. "That drop in earnings means consumer spending will probably not rebound in the upcoming few months so the labor market will have a hard time rebounding."

The Employment Trends Index includes eight labor-market indicators, including initial claims for unemployment insurance and percentage of respondents who say jobs are "hard to get."

"There's not even the slightest signal of a turning point," Levanon said. "All eight of the indicators are going down sharply."

A "huge, very scary" increase in the temporary help and part-time workers readings shows many job seekers are settling for underemployment because they can't find the full-time jobs they want, Levanon added.

A government report Friday showed the United States has lost 3.3 million jobs over the past six months, with the unemployment rate rising to 8.1%, its highest level in 25 years.

Job seekers are feeling the crunch, as a recent employment fair in New York attracted thousands of hopefuls.

Job losses will end only when economic activity begins to recover, both in the U.S. and across the globe, Levanon added.

"Unfortunately, there is no sign the job market will moderate," he said. "I think we will still see job loss of a great magnitude over the next few months." To top of page

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