A monthly gauge of online labor demand in the United States fell in December, but was still up 8.0 percent from a year ago, a private research group said on Friday.

On a month-to-month basis, the index fell 5.0 percent in December as is typical for year-end recruiting patterns.

The transportation and warehousing sectors continued to be top recruiters, but public administration again registered the steepest annual decline, dropping 11 percent year-over-year.

All metropolitan markets tracked by the index exhibited positive annual growth with Cincinnati continuing to exhibit the highest growth in December.

The Monster Employment Index U.S. is a monthly gauge of U.S. online job demand based on a real-time review of millions of employer job opportunities culled from a large representative selection of career Web sites and online job listings.

The Index maintained a positive year-on-year growth trend, despite easing from November to December due to the typical slowdown in recruitment activity associated with the end of the calendar year, said Jesse Harriott, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at Monster Worldwide.

Although indicators of economic activity within the trade and commerce sectors suggest economic growth continued in Q4, 2012 hiring plans in the context of the global economic uncertainty remain cautious.

Of the 20 industries monitored by the index, 15 showed positive annual growth trends.

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (up 42 percent) continued to remain the top growth sector in December.

Transportation and warehousing (up 30 percent) continued to record robust annual growth, aligning with other indicators of relatively strong commerce activity to close out 2011.

Wholesale trade (up 20 percent in December from 15 percent in November) drove a momentum gain in the broader trade sector. Meanwhile, retail trade (up 14 percent in December from 13 percent in November) recorded a milder improvement in growth pace

Utilities (down 8 percent) fell into negative growth indicating unusual contraction in recruitment activity for the sector.

Public administration (down 11 percent) continued to record the steepest decline in December.

All 28 metro markets recorded positive annual growth in December. Cincinnati (up 27 percent) continued to remain the top growth market in December.

The Monster Employment Index Europe recorded year-over-year growth of 11 percent in December.

(Americas Economics and Markets Desk, New York)