Although unemployment is down and durable goods orders are on the rise, businesses may be hiring less in the coming months. Here's a look at this week's economic developments and how they may affect your business.

Fewer Help-Wanted Ads

A decline in job advertising volume in 51 major U.S. newspapers drove down the Help-Wanted Advertising Index by one point to 26 in June, the Conference Board reported Thursday.

The index has declined gradually over the past three months. Last June, the index was 32.

"Business caution about the near-term prospects for the economy, and perhaps for their own businesses, may lead to a little less hiring this autumn," Conference Board labor economist Ken Goldstein said in a statement. "Other forward indicators of labor market activity are not much stronger than the measure based on print advertising."

While all regions experienced a drop in help-wanted ads, the largest decreases were in the Pacific, East South Central and Mountain regions.

The Conference Board also reported a decline in online job ads, which fell 94,000 or 2 percent to 4,280,400 in June.

Durable Goods Orders Climb

After a decline in May, orders for durable goods bounced back 1.4 percent to $217.1 billion, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The gains are a result of increases in new orders for goods in non-defense industries.

With steady increases over the past year or more, unfilled orders and inventories of manufactured durable goods are at the highest levels since 1992, the report said. The number of unfilled orders rose 1.5 percent to $736.5 billion, while inventories increased 0.2 percent to $313.4 billion.

Home Sales Slump Continues

Despite a decrease in housing inventory and a slight rise in home prices, existing home sales fell again by 3.8 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.75 million homes, a decline of 11.4 percent from the same period last year, the National Association of Realtors reported Wednesday.

"Home buyers have been getting mixed signals about the housing market, which is causing some of them to hesitate," Lawrence Yun, the trade group's senior economist, said in a statement.

Total housing inventory decreased 4.2 percent at the end of June to 4.2 million existing homes on the market. The national median existing-home price for all types was $230,100 in June, an increase of 0.3 percent from June 2006.

Sales of new homes also declined 6.6 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 834,000, a 22.3 percent drop from the same time last year, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The median sales price of new homes in June was $237,900, with 537,000 homes still on the market at the end of June, the report said.

Gas Prices Retreat

Following two weeks of increases, gas prices have eased somewhat, dropping 9.1 cents to $2.958 per gallon as of July 23, the Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday.

The Midwest experienced the sharpest decline, a drop of 18.6 cents to $3.197, but decreases were reported in every region.

The nationwide average gas price represents a decline of 4.5 cents from the same period last year.

Unemployment Continues to Fall

The number of new claims for unemployment benefits continued to fall in the week ending July 21, down 2,000 to 301,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The adjustment insured unemployment rate for the previous week remained at 1.9 percent, with 2.545 million claims filed, the report said.

North Caroline, Tennessee and Florida saw the largest increases in new claims, while Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin experienced the biggest declines.