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Help wanted ads still down in Jan.

Still spotty and persistently weak in a broad-based economic downturn, help-wanted advertising, a key barometer of America's job market, remained at subdued levels during January, The Conference Board reported.

The business think tank's Help-Wanted Advertising Index held steady at a reading of 47, unchanged from December, but was still almost 40 percent beneath a year-ago level of 77. In one sign of a potentially improving job market, both the January and December readings are two points above a November reading of 45.

"Want-ad volume is no longer declining," said Ken Goldstein, Conference Board economist. "After a prolonged and relatively steep drop, demand for labor has reached bottom and is poised to start a recovery as soon as the second quarter."

During the last three months, help-wanted advertising rose in six of the nine U.S. regions, with the largest increases taking place in the Mountain states, up 23.8 percent, and the East South Central region, up 10.1 percent. The steepest decline took place in the Middle Atlantic states, down 6.0 percent.

The Conference Board index measures help-wanted advertising volume in 51 major newspapers across the nation every month.

Help-Wanted Advertising Index

Jan. '02 Dec. '01 Jan. '01
Source: The Conference Board
National Index 47 47 77
Unemployment Rate 5.6% 5.8% 4.2%
Proportion of labor markets with rising want-ad volume 49.0% 69.0% 33.0%


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