The Conference Board’s employment trends index rose to 99.0 in December from 98.5 in November and is up 7.6% from a year ago, the group announced Monday. The November reading was revised downward from an initial level of 99.0.

“The improvement in the employment trends index in recent months suggests employment growth is likely to accelerate moderately in the first half of 2011,” said Gad Levanon, associate director of  macroeconomic research at the board. “We don’t expect employment to grow fast enough for the unemployment rate to dip below 9% for the rest of the year.”

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