NEW YORK (AP) — Hiring by small businesses picked up slightly in December, boosted by growth at larger service-oriented businesses, according to a report released Thursday.
Payroll service provider ADP said small businesses added 25,000 jobs last month, up from 19,000 in November, but still well below the 52,000 workers added to small business payrolls in October.
The bulk of the increase came from companies that provide services, rather than make goods. Service providers added 18,000 in December. In addition, the entire increase in small business hiring came from companies with between 20 and 49 employees. They added 31,000 jobs, while business with between one and 19 workers lost 6,000 jobs, ADP said.
The report was part of ADP's overall look at private-sector employment. Employers added 215,000 jobs in December, up from a revised figure of 148,000 in November and October's total of 157,000. The growth marked the biggest monthly gain since February, ADP said.
Trade, transportation and utilities companies posted the biggest gains, hiring 53,000 workers. Construction companies added another 39,000 jobs, while manufacturers eliminated 11,000.
Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, which collaborated on the report, called December's jump in construction jobs "encouraging," but said it probably got a boost from rebuilding efforts following Superstorm Sandy.
ADP's numbers comes after business software maker Intuit Inc. released its own report on Monday showing that small businesses significantly slowed the pace of their hiring in December.
According to Inuit, small companies added just 15,000 jobs for the month, half the number created in November. That meant employment in the sector rose just 0.09 percent from the previous month, and 0.12 percent for all of 2012.
Intuit bases its calculations on data from 170,000 small-business employers who use its payroll products.
Also on Thursday, the National Federation of Independent Businesses said that its monthly economic survey showed that the average number of jobs at businesses rose only a tiny bit from November levels, with the vast majority of the businesses surveyed saying that they made no changes in the number of people they employed. The group's full report is set to be released next week.
Meanwhile, the Labor Department is set to release its closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.
Roseland, N.J.-based ADP compiles its report from the companies that use its payroll services. Unlike the Labor Department's report, ADP doesn't count government jobs.