ADP says small business hiring looks a little stronger

NEW YORK (AP) — Small business hiring is looking a little stronger, according to the latest ADP employment report.

The payroll provider said Wednesday that its smallest customers, those with up to 49 employees, added 68,000 jobs in February, an improvement from January’s 63,000, a number revised upward from the previously reported 58,000.

ADP also reported that December hiring was stronger than initially reported — 99,000 new jobs versus the original tally of 93,000.

Small business hiring has fluctuated for more than a year, and hasn’t always kept pace with strong gains at larger businesses. ADP’s report on hiring at companies of all sizes showed a healthy gain of 235,000 jobs last month, with significant increases in construction, hotels and restaurants, and education and health care.

Small company owners haven’t let go of the conservative approach to hiring they were forced to adopt during the Great Recession and the first few years after its official end in June 2009. The biggest shift in their attitude has come in the timing of their hires — while before the recession many would expand their staffs in anticipation of new business, many owners now won’t hire until they’ve already seen solid growth in their revenue.

Surveys taken by banks and small business groups show no clear trends about owners’ hiring plans. While some surveys have shown that about a third of small businesses expect to hire in the next 12 months, others show that only a fifth expect to take on new staffers.

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