The Conference Board this week announced that its measure of job ads in major U.S. newspapers fell two points in March as the housing crunch and energy and food prices continued to slow the economy.

The group’s Help-Wanted Advertising Index is now off 10 points from its level a year ago (29), and over the last three months has declined in all nine U.S. regions. Steepest declines occurred in the East North Central (-20.3 percent), West North Central (-18.1 percent) and East South Central (-16.7 percent) regions.

"Print want-ad volume has shown a slightly declining trend over the past half year. Data for online job ads has also started to edge lower," Ken Goldstein, labor economist at The Conference Board, said in a statement. "The cumulative impact of the housing crisis, financial market turmoil, higher energy and other prices is slowing the overall economy and resulting in job cuts and reduced hiring intentions — with the prospect that declines may steepen. The labor market is likely to get worse before it gets better. This is precisely the fear driving consumer and business expectations down to levels only seen during recessions."

Although print ad volume has provided a gauge of change in the local, regional and national supply of jobs, The Conference Board announced this month that it will discontinue publishing the Help-Wanted Advertising Index in July and instead focus on "other indicators that better reflect today’s job market, such as The Conference Board’s monthly Help-Wanted OnLine Data Series, which measures changes in online job postings and includes newspapers’ Web-based ads."

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