Small businesses slow their pace of hiring in July

NEW YORK (AP) — Small businesses seem to be slowing their rate of hiring in response to the sluggish economy.

Reports issued this week show that small companies are hiring, but they've lost some of the momentum they had during the spring. The Labor Department said Friday that private employers added 161,000 jobs last month, down from 196,000 in June and 187,000 in May. The government doesn't break down the number of jobs by company size, but small businesses account for 99.9 percent of U.S. companies and about half the nation's employment.

Software maker Intuit said Friday that its small business customers cut 10,000 jobs last month, the first decline this year.

"The recovery for small business has been slower and more bumpy than for big business," said Susan Woodward, an economist who works with Intuit. The company uses data posted online by its customers to compile its report.

The economy has been growing only modestly. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the gross domestic product grew at a weak 1.7 percent during the April-June quarter. Small business owners have said in some surveys that they're concerned about the strength of the economy and their companies' sales.

Payroll provider ADP on Wednesday reported a slight dip in small business job growth. ADP, which compiles its statistics from data provided by its small business customers, said they added 82,000 jobs last month, little changed from June's 84,000.

A survey by the National Federation of Independent Business had a more pessimistic view. More than 1,600 members of the advocacy group said they cut their payrolls by an average 0.11 workers last month.

A separate survey taken in July by the human resources provider Insperity found that hiring levels at small businesses were little changed during the second quarter from the first three months of the year. More than 40 percent of the nearly 5,000 executives it surveyed said they were adding employees, while 56 percent were keeping their employment levels unchanged.

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