width=398A monthly gauge of U.S. online labor demand dropped 1 percent in August, but rose 12 percent from a year ago, an online recruiting firm said on Thursday.

Monster Worldwide Inc said its employment index fell to 136 points in August from 138 in July.

The August reading is 12 percent above the 121 mark a year ago.

Overall, we're very positive about where we are today as an economy compared to a year ago, said Jeff Quinn, senior director of research at Monster.com. We're slowly progressing out of the stages of the recession.

August marked the seventh straight month of year-over-year growth, since a 25-month decline ended in February, Quinn said.

The Monster index registered month-to-month increases in six of 20 industries and five of 23 occupations monitored in the last month.

Online job demand declined in eight of the nine U.S. census regions, with only the West South Central region recording a marginal increase.

There was positive annual growth in all 28 major metropolitan markets tracked by the index.

The report comes ahead of the U.S. Labor Department's release of weekly initial claims for jobless benefits, due later on Thursday.

The Monster Employment index is a monthly analysis based on a selection of corporate career sites and job boards. The margin of error is approximately plus or minus 1 percent.

(Editing by Leslie Adler)