The Conference Board's help-wanted advertising index, a key barometer of America's job market, increased two points in December. The index now stands at 38, the same level as one year ago. In the last three months, help-wanted advertising increased in seven of the nine regions across the U.S. Largest increases occurred in the South Atlantic (14.1 percent), West North Central (12.6 percent) and West South Central (12.4 percent) regions. "After remaining flat through much of 2004, the measure of labor demand edged a little higher in December. There was also a brief respite from layoffs as indicated by the data for initial jobless claims," said Conference Board Economist Ken Goldstein. "In both cases, there have been occasional improvements over the year, but each instance proved short-lived. The question is whether the labor market is starting to turn the corner or if this is another brief respite. There are reasons to believe this could be more than just another brief spike in activ...
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