AMSTERDAM - Recruitment in Europe was unchanged in December compared to the preceding month as increased demand in the legal and public sector offset a fall in the production and construction sector, a survey showed on Tuesday.

The Monster Employment Index, compiled by U.S. online jobs company Monster Worldwide (MWW.N), measures job listings on corporate websites and is more of a leading indicator of job conditions than unemployment data, which lags vacancies.

December's index for Europe remained at 100, down from 132 a year ago. The index, based on measurement in all 27 European Union countries, has been hovering around 100 since last May.

A value of 100 means the number of online job vacancies was comparable to 2005, when the European index was launched and online job demand was indexed at 100.

While it appears the Index has reached a bottom and the longer term trend is improving, it may take some time for widespread opportunity to return to the job market, said Andrea Bertone, head of Monster Europe.

Dutch staffing company Randstad (RAND.AS), the world's second-largest, and smaller British rival SThree (STHR.L) said last month they had seen improvement or stabilisation in most markets. [ID:nGEE5B30LC] [ID:nL5347977]

World leader Adecco (ADEN.VX) expected 2010 to be another demanding year and recovery would be a long process, Adecco's Chief Executive Patrick de Maeseneire said in a newspaper interview published last month. [ID:nGEE5BA22X]

Worker demand increased most in the legal sector, by 10 percent month-on-month, and the public, defence and community sector saw demand increase by 3 percent, Monster said.

The production and maintenance and construction markets were among the sectors where job offerings fell at the fastest pace, indicating the global economic crisis continued to hurt the building and housing markets, Monster said.

In the UK, where British Michael Page (MPI.L) and Hays (HAYS.L) operate, job offerings rose for the fourth consecutive month, while demand fell most in Italy, France and Belgium of the 7 individual countries tracked by Monster. (Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger; editing by Patrick Graham)