width=398A gauge of the U.S. job market rose in July for the 14th straight month although its pace of increase slowed, suggesting job growth would struggle to keep up with growth in the working-age population, a research group said on Monday.

The Conference Board, a private research group, said its Employment Trends Index rose to 97.0 in July from 96.7 in June.

The index is up 9.8 percent from a year ago, according to the group.

The disappointing employment numbers may indicate that the low levels of household spending and confidence are making businesses more cautious when it comes to hiring, said Gad Levanon, associate director, macroeconomic research at The Conference Board.

The growth rate of the Employment Trends Index slowed sharply in the past three months, suggesting that employment growth will remain too weak to keep up with the increase in the working age population, he said.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)