A key economic indicator measuring the volume of job ads in major U.S. newspapers dipped one point in October, a sign that the sluggish labor market may continue into spring 2008, The Conference Board reported today.

The organization’s Help-Wanted Advertising Index dropped from 24 in September to 23 last month, and is down from 29 a year ago. Based on monthly help-wanted, print-advertising volume in 51 U.S. newspapers – and because ad volume has proven to be sensitive to labor market conditions – this index provides a gauge of change in the local, regional and national supply of jobs.

“The slump on home buying and building, higher gas prices, higher grocery prices, and credit availability questions are combining to slow the economy,” Ken Goldstein, labor economist at The Conference Board, said in a statement. “The Coincident Economic Index, a measure of where the economy is right now, was flat in October. That was the first month all year when it did not rise at all. The Leading Economic Indicators are pointing to little change in the coming months. The latest reading on the Consumer Confidence Index suggests people are beginning to fear for their job security and for the pace of wage growth.

“Perhaps the only good news is that the forward indicators of labor market activity are more flat than declining. This suggests the slow pace of the labor market this autumn could continue into the early months of 2008.”

In the last three months, help-wanted advertising sank in all nine U.S. regions, with the steepest declines occurring in the Pacific (-18 percent), West North Central (-14.7 percent) and East North Central (-14.3 percent) regions, The Conference Board reported.

According to the organization’s Help-Wanted OnLine Data Series, there were 4.16 million online advertised vacancies in October, a decrease of 108,300, or about 2.5 percent, from the September level. There were 2.71 advertised vacancies online for every 100 persons in the labor force in October, down from 2.78 in September.

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