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March Retail Labor Index

The March release of the Kronos Retail Labor Index reveals that in February 2010 both applications and hires decreased over January 2010 levels on a seasonally adjusted basis.  The decrease in applications slightly outweighed the decrease in hires, so that the Index rose from 3.20% to 3.26%.  This means that for every 100 applications received, 3.26 hires occurred in February.

One developing trend is the increasing volatility of application levels.  The past few months have seen significant swings in application volumes, with increases in September and October followed by large decreases in November and December, and then a significant 20% month-to-month increase in January.

Currently, job applicants are forced to make employment decisions in an environment of extreme uncertainty about a job market recovery.  In this uncertain environment, positive economic news (such as a better-than-expected holiday sales season) will encourage new entrants to the job market - both those wishing to change jobs, as well as those who are out of work but who had stopped looking for work.  In the absence of sustained additional hiring by employers, these application surges will have limited durability.  We would not be surprised to see this volatility continue well into 2010.

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