The Conference Board today reported that its Help-Wanted Advertising index – a key barometer of America’s job market – dipped one point in September to 36.

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising declined in eight of the nine U.S. regions. Steepest declines occurred in the South Atlantic (-13 percent), New England (-10.8 percent), and West North Central (-9.9 percent) regions.

“The labor market remains flat and has clearly started to weigh negatively on consumer confidence. Want-ad volume was basically flat all spring and summer,” said Conference Board Economist Ken Goldstein. “Perhaps some of the 1-point drop in September can be associated with the repeated hurricane strikes in the South. But the bigger issue has been weakness in the Midwest all year, now joined by a weakening in the Upper Plains states as well. Meanwhile, initial unemployment claims nationally have been essentially unchanged from March through mid-October. With the leading economic index declining for four straight months, the labor market could even be losing momentum going into the final months of 2004, and not just in the Midwest and Upper Plains.”

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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