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Help Wanted Index slips to lowest point in 40 years

Pointing to continued weakness in the U.S. labor market, The Conference Board's Help Wanted Index, a widely watched gauge of hiring activity, slipped one point in November to a current level of 45, down by almost half from a year ago, and at its lowest point in almost 40 years.

During the last three months, help-wanted advertising has fallen in all nine U.S. regions, The Conference Board reported, with the deepest decline posted in the Mountain states, where advertising dipped by 21.7 percent. Other steep drops were recorded in the Pacific region, down by 19.4 percent; the West South Central states, down by 19.0 percent; and the South Atlantic region, down by 16.9 percent.

Ken Goldstein, Conference Board economist, said, "Even if the economy is slowly starting to turn around, the labor market is still in retreat. In more than half the country, help-wanted ad volume is about half of what it was one year ago. The overall level of the Help-Wanted Index is as low now as it has been in almost four decades. The trend in job advertising suggests that new hiring will be kept to a bare minimum through early 2002."

The Conference Board surveys help-wanted advertising volume in 51 major newspapers across the country every month.

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