Economy Watch: Employment Index Slips

The Conference Board reported that its Employment Trends Index decreased slightly in November, making the fourth monthly drop this year.

The Conference Board reported on Monday that its Employment Trends Index decreased slightly in November, making the fourth monthly drop this year. The index now stands at 107.82, down from 107.84 in October, which represents a downward revision.

The index aggregates eight labor-market indicators, each of which tracks a separate aspect of the market. The indicators include (among others): Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get” (which is done by the Conference Board), Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance, Number of Employees Hired by the Temporary-Help Industry and Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers.

“The Employment Trends Index remains weak and suggests that employment growth over the next several months is likely to slow again,” Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board, noted in a press statement. “Employment growth typically lags economic growth, and with the economy expected to decelerate in the current quarter and early 2013, a slowdown in employment won’t be far behind.”

Vegas residential market slowly recovering

The Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors reported on Monday that single-family residential sales in the market dropped 10.1 percent in November compared with October, while condo and townhouse sales were down 8.5 percent. Compared with a year ago, single-family sales were down 15.1 percent and condo/townhouse sales declined 15.6 percent.

Greater Las Vegas is a market worth watching because it was the hardest hit among major U.S. housing markets when the housing market crashed (as measured by Case-Shiller). The drop in sales isn’t because of a softening of the market—it’s still butter-soft—but rather because of a drop in distressed sales (foreclosure and short sales), which have made up most of the housing transactions in Vegas in recent years. In fact, the market saw a record number of sales in 2011, more even than in 2005, and most of them were distressed sales.

Among Vegas market distressed sales, the lion’s share is now short sales. The GLVAR said that 41.2 percent of all housing sales in the market were short sales in November, while only 10.7 percent were foreclosures. The movement reflects a broader, even nationwide, trend of rising short sales.

Italian politics unnerves euro zone

Just when the world was settling in for a quiet holiday season in the euro zone, things were shaken up over the weekend by word of the imminent resignation of Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, after Silvio Berlusconi’s party withdrew its support from the government. The yields on Italian two-year as well as 10-year debt both rose in reaction. Italian stocks dropped too.

There will be an election in Italy in a few months, and Monti might be a candidate against Berlusconi. Whatever the outcome, political uncertainty in Italy, the zone’s fourth-largest economy and a major debtor nation, is bound to send more jitters throughout the euro zone in the weeks ahead.

Wall Street experienced a modestly up day on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 14.75 points, or 0.11 percent. The S&P 500 rose a scant 0.03 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.3 percent.