A key indicator that measures job offerings in major U.S. newspapers held steady in September, as inflation worries impacted hiring plans, The Conference Board reported today.

The Help-Wanted Advertising Index registered 30 last month, unchanged from August but still much lower than the 37 reading reported a year earlier.

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising declined in all nine U.S. regions. Steepest declines occurred in the West South Central (-17.5 percent), South Atlantic (-14.6 percent), and West North Central (-13.7 percent) regions.

“The labor market remains cool going into the final months of the year. The latest data shows that job advertising in print was unchanged in September, while online ad volume dipped,” said Ken Goldstein, labor economist at The Conference Board. “These measures of want-ad volume had signaled a cooling off in labor demand as early as a year ago. Although higher gas prices and a cooling housing market softened the economy, inflation remains a fundamental concern. Consumers worry that it will stretch their household budgets (prices rising faster than incomes). Businesses worry that costs will rise faster than prices. That’s why consumption and investment growth are slow, and hiring will not come back quickly.”

New online job ads dropped slightly in September to 2.46 million, according to The Conference Board Help-Wanted OnLine Data Series. The September level was down by 115,089 ads, or 5 percent, from the previous month. There were 1.62 online job ads per 100 persons in the U.S. labor force, compared with 1.71 in August 2006 and 1.55 in July.

The Conference Board surveys help-wanted print advertising volume in 51 major newspapers across the country every month. Because ad volume has proven to be sensitive to labor market conditions, this measure provides a gauge of change in the local, regional and national supply of jobs.

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