A key indicator that measures job offerings in major U.S. newspapers declined two points in July, the Conference Board reported today.

The Help-Wanted Advertising Index now stands at 32; it was 39 one year ago.

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising declined in eight of the nine U.S. regions. Steepest declines occurred in the West North Central (-21.5 percent), Middle Atlantic (-15.3 percent) and Mountain (-14.6 percent) regions.

“While there is a tendency to blame gas prices and a cooling housing market for the softening trend in overall economic activity, that isn’t the whole story,” said Ken Goldstein, labor economist at the Conference Board. “The economy was starting to lose some steam a year ago, before gas prices went through the roof and the housing market began cooling down, and even before the hurricanes and flooding. This was simply a matter of an economy running above average for an extended period and starting to moderate. The run-up in gas prices and the cooler housing market have simply intensified this trend. The result this summer is slower job growth and less labor demand going forward.”

In addition, new unduplicated online job ads across the U.S. decreased in July to 2.3 million, according to the Conference Board Help-Wanted OnLine Data Series. Last month’s supply of online job ads was down by 101,900, or 4 percent, from the previous month. In July, there were 1.55 online job ads per 100 persons in the U.S. labor force, compared with 1.63 in June 2006, 1.57 in May and 1.51 in April.

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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