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Employment indicator eases national recession worries

Latest data show pockets of trouble, but nothing widespread, economist says

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A key economic indicator measuring the volume of job ads in major U.S. newspapers rose one point in December, adding fuel to the belief that the economy will not enter a nationwide recession, The Conference Board reported today. The Conference Board's Help-Wanted Advertising Index inched up to 22 in December from 21 in November. Although it is much lower than the 33 reading a year ago, some 59 percent of labor markets surveyed in December reported rising want-ad volume, up from 37 percent in November. In the last three months, help-wanted advertising declined in eight of the nine U.S. regions. Steepest declines occurred in the Pacific (-18.9 percent) and South Atlantic (-16.3 percent) regions. The East North Central region, however, showed a modest increase of 2.5 percent. "The latest readings in print want-ad volume show a flat trend in the last three months of the year. The lack of stronger job prospects is resulting in very cautious and nervous consumer attitudes and spending patte...