The Conference Board’s Help-Wanted Advertising Index – a key barometer of America’s job market – increased one point in May to 39, up from 38 the previous month. The index was 36 one year ago.

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising declined in five of the nine U.S. regions. The steepest decline occurred in the East South Central (-14.5 percent) region, followed by slight declines in four other regions, including the West South Central (-4.8 percent) East North Central (-3.3 percent), West North Central (-1.6 percent) and Mountain (-0.6 percent) regions. Help-wanted advertising increased moderately in four regions, including the South Atlantic (2.5 percent), New England (1.6 percent), Pacific (0.6 percent) and Middle Atlantic (0.6 percent) regions.

“Most indicators of hiring have slowed in recent months. Initial unemployment claims have improved much since March,” said Conference Board Economist Ken Goldstein. “Likewise, the Help-Wanted Index was at the same level in May as in March. These indicators are suggestive of a labor market continuing to improve this summer, but at a more moderate pace. That, plus higher interest rates, are likely to be the talk around backyard gatherings this upcoming July 4th weekend.”

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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