Conference Board Employment Trends Index Hopeful

The official employment numbers might not have been terrific, but the Conference Board reported on Monday that its Employment Trends Index increased again in May for the ninth straight month. The index now stands at 95.7, up from April's revised figure of 95.2, and up almost 9 percent from a year ago.

June 8, 2010
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user totalAldo

The official employment numbers might not have been terrific, but the Conference Board reported on Monday that its Employment Trends Index increased again in May for the ninth straight month. The index now stands at 95.7, up from April’s revised figure of 95.2, and up almost 9 percent from a year ago.

“The growth in the Employment Trends Index suggests that the disappointing uptick in payroll employment in May could just be a one-month blip, and that jobs will likely expand further in the next several months,” said Gad Levanon, associate director-macroeconomic research of the organization, in a statement. But he also hedged his bets: “However, as some of the components of the ETI have yet to signal robust gains, the pace of recovery in employment may remain moderate.”

May’s increase in the index was driven by positive contributions from five out of the eight components. The improving indicators were Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get”; Number of Temporary Employees; Part-Time Workers for Economic Reasons; Industrial Production; and Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales.

Central Banker Bernanke Hopeful Too

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke also did his best to put a (moderately) good face on employment woes and euro-blues by asserting on Monday during an unusual question-and-answer session at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Sam Donaldson, former ABC correspondent, asked most of the questions.

“Even though technically we’ll be in recovery and the economy will be growing, unemployment will still be high for a while and that means that a lot of people will be under financial stress,” he said. He pooh-poohed the prospect of a double-dip recession, and noted that the Fed is watching the situation in Europe “closely.”

When will the Fed start raising interest rates? “In the future,” Bernanke said. It’s as close as a Federal Reserve Chairman can get to levity.

Bank of America to Pay Penalty for Countrywide Excesses

Bank of America, which during the nervous summer of 2008 agreed to acquire Countrywide Financial (now known as Bank of America Home Loans), has been ordered by the Federal Trade Commission to pay $108 million in refunds to homeowners deemed to have paid excessive fees to Countrywide.

Though agreeing to pay the amount, Bank of America admitted no wrongdoing on anyone’s part, as per usual in this kind of situation. For comparison’s sake, $108 million is about 1.7 percent of the bank’s net income of $6.27 billion in 2009. No word on whether the bank plans to make up that amount with an small uptick in ATM and other retail fees.

Wall Street continued its bearish mood on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industry average continuing its slide by dropping 115.48 points, or 1.16 percent. The S&P 500 declined 1.35 percent and the Nasdaq trended downward some 2.04 percent.