A monthly gauge of online labor demand in the United States edged up in September from a month ago and was 16 percent above the reading from a year ago, a private research group said on Thursday.

Monster Worldwide Inc, an online careers and recruiting firm, said its employment index rose to 138 points in September from 136 in August, matching its level from July. The current month's reading is 16 percent above the 119 mark a year ago.

While the growth rate has slowed on a month to month basis, Monster said the strong year-over-year growth is encouraging.

This is a clear sign that employers are recruiting in greater numbers than they were a year ago and bodes well for steady, but continued, improvement in the U.S. labor market, said Jesse Harriott, a vice president at Monster.

The Monster index found online recruitment activity increased in 8 of 20 industries and held steady in five industries.

Some service-related companies, as well as health care and social assistance, exhibited gains in September, while the accommodation and food services industries remained weak.

Among occupations, the demand for workers rose in 10 and remained flat in four of the 23 jobs monitored in the last month. Protective service and military jobs had the largest increase in online availability, while personal care and food preparation jobs recorded a slowdown.

Online job demand was higher in six of the nine U.S. census regions, with the Mid Atlantic registering the largest increase.

The report comes ahead of the U.S. Labor Department's release of weekly data on claims for jobless benefits, due later on Thursday and expected to show initial claims at 455,000, according to a Reuters poll of economists.

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. (Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)