The economy could shed two million more jobs this year, according to a report released by the Conference Board this week.
The New York-based business research firm said its Employment Trends Index, an aggregate of labor market indicators, fell in December to 99.6 -- a 1.6 percent decrease from the November figure of 101.2. The index has declined for 17 straight months.
"Using the indicators and the index, there is nothing that tells us that a turnaround is going to happen within the next three to six months," said Gad Levanon, a senior economist at the Conference Board. "It's all pretty negative and pointing to further weakness in the labor market."
The forecast came just days after federal data showed that the United States lost 2.6 million jobs in 2008 -- the labor market's worst performance since World War II. Sectors hit the hardest include construction, manufacturing, and retail. Among the few bright spots were education, government, and health care, the latter of which was up 32,000 positions in December, according to the Labor Department.
Levanon said the unemployment rate could reach double digits if a federal stimulus package doesn't staunch the flow of job losses. He added that wages will continue to shrink and that prospects for job hunters will look increasingly bleak.
"The worst is not behind us yet," he said. "We believe the economy will start recovering in the second half of 2009, but there will be significant job losses before it does."