The Conference Board today reported that job growth could be relatively weak this summer based on recent nationwide declines in help-wanted advertising.

The Help-Wanted Advertising Index, a key measure of job offerings in major U.S. newspapers, fell one point in March to 30, down from 31 in February and well below the 37 reading a year ago.

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising declined in eight of the nine U.S. regions, according to The Conference Board, with the steepest declines occurring in the East South Central (-22.6 percent), South Atlantic (-17.5 percent) and East North Central (-17 percent) regions. The New England region, however, rose 3.2 percent.

“The forward indicators of labor market activity have been mixed in recent months. The economy has lost a little momentum and growth prospects remain somewhat questionable,” Ken Goldstein, labor economist at The Conference Board, said in a statement. “But business confidence regained a little strength in the first quarter, suggesting that employers may be inclined to hire workers if their business growth does not fall. The relatively modest ad volume now could be a signal that job growth may be modest (not more than 130,000 per month) this summer.”

As for online job ads, postings on major job boards also dropped in March, falling 2 percent from February, according to The Conference Board Help-Wanted OnLine Data Series. However, the March dip in advertised job vacancies was likely the result of fewer days in the February-March reference period.

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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