'Sluggish' Job Growth Persists In U.S.

By John S. McClenahen If this week's employment report from the U.S. Labor Department follows the form of the latest help-wanted advertising index calculated by the Conference Board, it will show that at yearend 2004 job growth remained below expectations. The help-wanted index for November, the most recent month for which data are available, was at 36, down a point from October's 37. "Job growth continues to be sluggish, despite periodic reports that some companies are planning to add workers in the months ahead," says Ken Goldstein, an economist at the Conference Board, a New York-based business research group. "The widely-awaited turnaround in job growth has yet to arrive." In advance of Friday's report on December 2004 employment, the consensus forecast is for a gain of 175,000 jobs in the nonfarm sector of the U.S. economy. That's only slightly above the 150,000 jobs economists figure the economy must create every month to keep up with population growth.

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