May 31, 2005
Angry Bear cites the April help-wanted advertising index report from the Conference Board as "disappointing news":
The Conference Board’s Help-Wanted Advertising Index – a key barometer of America's job market – was unchanged in April. The Index now stands at 39. It was 38 one year ago. In the last three months, help-wanted advertising declined in seven of the nine U.S. regions. Steepest declines occurred in the South Atlantic (-12.4%), East North Central (-10.8%), and West North Central (-9.9%) regions.
Says Conference Board Economist Ken Goldstein: “The labor market indicators were soft in April.
Maybe, but we should probably heed this warning from Rob Vallarta, issued in the January 21 edition of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's Economic Letter:
“Due to its reliance on newspaper advertising, however, the help-wanted index is an indirect measure of job vacancies.The level of job advertisements appearing in newspapers may change for reasons that are unrelated to overall labor demand. For example, equal employment opportunity laws raised the level of newspaper job advertising in the 1960s and 1970s, while internet job advertising has served as an increasingly effective substitute for newspaper advertising in recent years.”
In fact, Monster.com's Employment Index tells a somewhat different story:
Online job demand and recruitment activity edged slightly higher in April, continuing a steady upward trend for 2005, but at a much more measured pace, according to the latest findings of the Monster Employment Index. Tracking to other recent economic indicators showing slower-than-expected U.S. economic growth, the Index’s moderate increase showed overall online job availability remaining strong throughout the country, with all U.S. Census Bureau regions at their highest levels for the year – eight of the nine showed an increase during April. The overall Index increased from 130 in March 2005 to 131 in April – marking the Index’s highest level to date and a nearly 30-point increase over its April 2004 level of 103.
Here's the time series, if you are the visual type:
In truth, I would not want to put money on either of these indexes. A better picture will come from the BLS' Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) report, due June 7. By then, of course, we will have the May employment report and not have to rely on what the April "vacancy" statistics were trying to tell us.
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