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Small business hiring pace picks up, revenue falls

NEW YORK (AP) -- Small businesses picked up their hiring pace slightly in April, according to a survey released Tuesday.

Small companies added 20,000 jobs, up from a revised 15,000 in March and a revised 14,000 in February, software maker Intuit said. The rate of hiring was still down from January, when a revised 27,000 jobs were added. The company compiles its figures from financial records its customers post online; it often revises its numbers in subsequent months.

But Intuit also found signs of a slower economy as workers' average monthly pay fell $9, a drop of 0.4 percent. That followed an increase of $12 in March. The average monthly hours that employees worked fell 48 minutes, or 0.8 percent, compared to an increase of 18 minutes in March.

Small business owners have been hiring cautiously because of continuing uncertainty about their sales and the overall economy. Intuit reported that small companies' revenue fell in March, dropping 0.4 percent, another sign of slower business. Only the construction industry saw a revenue gain, an increase of 0.17 percent.

More readings on small business employment during April will be released later this week by payroll services company ADP, the National Federation of Independent Business and the Labor Department.