The U.S. job market strengthened in September for the first time since January of last year, suggesting a slow and rough road to recovery, a research group said on Monday.

The Conference Board, a private research group, said its Employment Trends Index edged up to 88.5 in September from an upwardly revised 88.2 in August, originally reported at 88.1.

The index is now down 15.6 percent from one year ago, the group said.

While the employment numbers reported by the government last Friday were certainly disappointing, The Conference Board Employment Trends Index suggests that the trend of declining job losses will continue, said Gad Levanon, senior economist at The Conference Board.

But the road to recovery is definitely going to be bumpy and may last unusually long, given the depth of the recession we have experienced.

Government data on Friday showed that U.S. employers shed a larger-than-expected 263,000 jobs in September, sending the unemployment rate to its highest level since 1983.

(Reporting by Camille Drummond; editing by James Dalgleish)