Another encouraging sign for U.S. employment emerged with the Conference Board's Employment Trends Index rising in December for the third straight month, up 0.8%. The index, which points to short-term hiring trends, is encouraging, but "if economic activity continues to expand slowly in the first half of 2013, it would be difficult for employers to maintain the current rate of job growth," commented Gad Levanon, director of macroeconomic research at the Conference Board.

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