Small-Firm Hiring Fell Flat In March

Tickers in this article: ADP INTU
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Businesses with fewer than 20 employees added 50,000 jobs in March, falling short of the prior two months' totals, according to the Intuit(INTU) Small Business Employment Index.

Small-business employment as measured by the Index, published today, rose 0.2% for March, equating to an annual growth rate of 3%, Intuit says.

Intuit's monthly index measures hiring at roughly 64,000 small firms that use the company's Intuit Online Payroll services.

Small businesses added 50,000 jobs in March, falling short of employment numbers in the prior two months.

"Employment is up again for small business this month," according to economist Susan Woodward, who collaborates with Intuit on the index. "The gain, at an annual rate, is not quite as large as last month, but it's still encouraging. Plus there is one more sign of strength -- employment was up for the first time in many months in all nine U.S. regions."

At the state level, employment rose in some of the states hit the hardest by falling real estate prices, including California, Florida, Arizona and Oregon, according to Intuit.

Based on the latest data, February employment growth rose slightly to 60,000 jobs, or 0.37% -- up from the original 50,000 estimate, but equal to January figures. Since job growth began in October 2009, small businesses have hired 820,000 workers, according to Intuit.

Hourly employees marginally increased their work week by 0.12% to an average 107.7 hours, or a 24.9-hour work week. Monthly wages dipped slightly to $2,614, or $31,400 per year.

"There is no sign of any pressure on small businesses to pay people more," Woodward said. "This should not be a surprise given the high unemployment rate, especially among unskilled workers, and considering that small businesses use relatively more unskilled labor than larger businesses do."

The nation will find out on Wednesday how private-sector jobs fared overall in March after the release of the ADP National Employment Report, sponsored by Automatic Data Processing(ADP) . Last month, roughly 217,000 private-sector jobs were created. Small businesses created nearly half, according to ADP.

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