The Conference Board’s Help-Wanted Advertising Index – a key barometer of America’s job market – increased one point in February to 40, up from 39 the previous month. The index was 41 one year ago.

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising increased in eight of the nine U.S. regions. The largest increases occurred in the Mountain (13.8 percent), New England (12.8 percent) and East South Central (9.6 percent) regions.

“The national labor market has begun to improve, but the small gains only bring us back to year-ago levels,” said Conference Board Economist Ken Goldstein. “Consumers have grown more concerned about why continued increases in industrial production and GDP have generated only meager job increases. The positive news here is that the incremental improvement in want-ad volume comes at the same time that layoffs, as measured by initial unemployment claims, have been edging lower.

“A national recovery in the labor market means that more than half of the regions across the U.S. are improving,” Goldstein said. “By January, seven of the nation’s nine regions had higher want-ad volume than three months earlier (October). In February, it was roughly the same story. The strongest gains in recent months have been in the Mountain and East South Central states. They could be the twin engines that will pull up the rest of the country’s labor markets.”

The Conference Board surveys help-wanted 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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