Report: Small biz hiring continues to slow

NEW YORK (AP) — In the latest evidence of slowing job growth at small businesses, a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business showed that companies lost workers in September, the fourth straight monthly drop in employment.

The lobbying group said Thursday that after factoring in the number of jobs that companies added and cut, small businesses lost an average of 0.23 worker per firm last month.

But businesses in some industries were hiring, including manufacturing, where small businesses added an average 0.76 workers per firm. Companies involved in what's called wholesale trade, including distributors and middlemen, added 0.25 workers per firm.

The report, compiled from a survey of nearly 700 NFIB members, pointed to continuing caution among small business owners who are worried about their sales, the economy and the outcome of the election. The NFIB will issue results of its monthly survey on owner optimism on Tuesday.

The employment survey results were in line with a report Wednesday from the payroll firm ADP. Its survey of its small business customers found that they slowed their pace of hiring last month, adding 81,000 workers, down from 94,000 in August. The NFIB findings also were in line with the Labor Department's report Thursday that applications for unemployment benefits rose last week to a level that indicated only modest hiring.

Many owners still have no plans to hire. Only 4 percent plan to create jobs, down from 10 percent in August.

The next look at small business hiring comes Friday, when the Labor Department issues its report on employment for September. Although the government doesn't break down its figures according to the size of companies, the vast majority of employers are small businesses. So the report will be an indicator of hiring at smaller companies.

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