A ''Now Hiring'' sign.
A ''Now Hiring'' sign. - 
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Years ago, the Conference Board sifted through pages and pages of classified help wanted ads in newspapers.  They switched to online job sites in 2005, but the idea is the same: Scan through help wanted ads to get a picture of the jobs market.

“I’m using it because I’m particularly interested in how difficult it is to fill new job vacancies,”  says Jonathan Rothwell, a labor analyst at Brookings, who has looked at data on math and computer science positions. “Those jobs are now almost as difficult to fill today as they were before the recession.”

But Rothwell says it’s still easy to fill lower-skilled jobs. 

And economist June Shelp, a vice president at the Conference Board who developed the online job index, says she has found picky employers. 

She says they used to hire community college graduates but, “Now they’re asking for somebody who has a graduate degree.”

The Conference Board isn’t the only game in town.  Other private companies, and some states, are also crunching job site data.