Small business hiring still sluggish, survey shows

SLUGGISH EMPLOYMENT PICTURE: Small businesses cut their payrolls by an average 0.1 workers per firm in September, according to a survey released Thursday by the National Federation of Independent Business. That follows a revised increase of 0.08 workers in August. Eleven percent of the owners surveyed said they have hired an average 1.5 workers per firm in recent months, down 3 percentage points from the number reported in August.

WHAT IT ALL MEANS: Two other surveys this week, one by payroll provider ADP and the other by software maker Intuit, have shown the pace of hiring rose slightly last month at small businesses. Taken together, the surveys reflect how cautious most business owners still are about hiring and expanding their companies amid shaky economic growth and uncertainty about how much the new health care law will cost.

LOOKING AHEAD, NOT PRETTY: The NFIB survey, which questioned 773 members of the advocacy group, showed that owners are scaling back hiring plans. Only 13 percent of the owners have plans to hire, down 1 percentage point from August. Meanwhile, one-fifth of the owners said they have openings that they couldn't find anyone to fill last month.

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