The Conference Board's Help-Wanted Advertising Index held steady at 85 in July, the same figure recorded in June. It was 89 one year ago. In the last three months, help-wanted advertising declined in seven regions and rose in two. The biggest declines occurred in the West South Central (-7.6%) and West North Central (-7.1%) regions. Increases occurred in the Pacific (2.4%) and East North Central (2.3%) regions. "The last time the volume of job advertising was this low was in the summer of 1996," says Conference Board Economist Ken Goldstein. "The labor market is tighter now than it was then, and layoffs are actually lower. The manufacturing sector, which had been busy downsizing for a year and a half, is now hiring laid-off workers because of mounting orders for durable goods. The service sector has been hiring more than 150,000 new workers per month, on average. This job growth should bring the unemployment rate down to 4% before the start of the new year." The Conference Board surveys help-wanted advertising volume in 51 major newspapers across the country every month. Because ad volume has proven to be sensitive to labor market conditions, this measure provides a gauge of change in the local, regional, and national supply of jobs.