U.S. Markets open in 9 hrs 27 mins

Small Business Hiring So Low It Is Almost Invisible

Jon C. Ogg

When you see reports of thousands of layoffs, it has to be a stark reminder that this recovery's continuation likely will have to depend on the growth and success of small businesses in America. Unfortunately, small business employment grew by only a slight 0.01% in September. Now that the government shutdown will cause a delay in the September unemployment and payrolls report, the public has to pay attention to non-government reports on unemployment and payrolls.

Tuesday's report included monthly data released by Intuit Inc. (INTU). With its business accounting and payrolls services, the company can get a real handle on what is happening inside small businesses. It also can see what that impact is in small business operations almost certainly before the government can figure out what is happening there. The employment index is based on data from Intuit Online Payroll and QuickBooks Online Payroll during the period of August 24 to September 23.

Overall worker compensation fell by $7 to $2,657 in September, and hours worked was down about 12 minutes to 106 hours on average. This makes for only a 24.5-hour work week. The equivalent yearly wages would be about $31,900, although this includes wages that small business owners pay to themselves.

Intuit's monthly data showed that real estate and construction sectors saw revenue rise. The sad result is that Intuit saw only 1,000 jobs added to the 20 million or so payrolls included under small businesses in September. The professional services industry and the accommodation and food services sectors saw the largest drops at -0.4% each. Intuit's report did say:

The silver lining is that the small business hiring rate is up for the 11th month in a row. This increase is an encouraging sign of strength in a small business labor market that is otherwise in the doldrums.

Gains were seen in 31 of the 37 states that make up the Intuit Small Business Employment Index, and losses were seen in five of those states. Wisconsin saw the greatest employment gains in small business, while drops were seen in Alabama, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Intuit Online Payroll and QuickBooks Online Payroll have more than 1,000 small business firms tracked, and the monthly changes are said to be seasonally adjusted.