Small business employment falls in August

DOES THIS MONTH MAKE ME LOOK FLAT? U.S. small business employment dipped 0.01 percent in August, according to a report from Intuit Inc. released Wednesday.

Susan Woodward, the economist who worked with Intuit to create the monthly Small Business Employment index, said that this slight drop equates to about 1,300 jobs lost, which means employment was essentially flat for the month. A big part of the problem is that revenue per small business has continued to decline overall and for all industries except construction, she noted.

The employment index is based on data from Intuit Online Payroll and QuickBooks Online Payroll from July 24 through Aug. 23.

STAGNANT WATERS: The National Federation of Independent Business took a dim view on August job numbers, based on its survey of members.

"Job growth in the small-business sector is close to an oxymoron," NFIB's Chief Economist William C. Dunkelberg said in a statement.

The NFIB's survey found that there was a decline in employment averaging 0.3 workers per firm.

Dunkelberg noted that each of the last four months has been worse than the one that preceded it. Most small business owners did not hire new workers this summer. Of the 47 percent of owners who did hire or tried to hire in the past three months, a vast majority said there were few or no qualified candidates for open positions.

The NFIB said that brighter skies may be ahead as 15 percent of business owners say they plan to increase employment at their firms in the future.

"If we assume this increase is not a fluke, it signals a substantial resumption of hiring in the coming months," Dunkelberg said.

THE BIG PICTURE: Small business employment continues to lag behind total private employment, Woodward said. Private employment has improved by 7 percent since the trough in March of 2010, while small business employment has only risen 2 percent.

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