The Conference Board’s Help-Wanted Advertising Index, a key barometer of the nation’s job market, increased one point in October. The Index now stands at 37, up from 36 one year ago.

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising declined in six of the nine U.S. regions. Largest declines occurred in the Mountain, East North Central and South Atlantic regions by 7.2 percent, 5.9 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively.

Help-wanted advertising increased in the New England, West South Central and East South Central regions by 13.1 percent, 5.5 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.

“Despite the outsized job gain in October, the measure of labor demand going forward remains relatively flat, as does the number signing up for their unemployment checks,” Conference Board Economist Ken Goldstein said.

“Both initial jobless claims and want-ad volume have remained flat since early 2004,” he added. “Except for two outbursts of job growth (one in the spring and one in October) the lack of steady improvement in employment has weakened consumer confidence, especially with respect to where the labor market is going in the next six months.”

With the Leading Economic Index declining for five straight months, Goldstein said the outlook is that the economy will grow too slowly to enable the labor market more than an occasional good month in the first half of 2005.

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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