Three economic reports present conflicting, but somewhat dismal, pictures of the state of small business employment in July. The reports, issued by the National Federation of Independent Business, Intuit and SurePayroll Inc., paint portraits of small businesses struggling to find their footing in an improving but still fragile economy.
According to the NFIB survey, the nation's smallest firms cut staffs slightly last month. The decrease of 0.11% represents the second straight month that small businesses trimmed workforces after half a year of flat or modestly increased hiring.
The second report, issued by accounting software giant Inuit, showed a modest employment increase of just 0.17% in its Small Business Employment and Revenue Indexes, for an annualized growth rate of 2.1%. This equates to approximately 35,000 new jobs created for the month of July, Intuit explained.
"This month's indexes indicate a mixed bag for small businesses," said Susan Woodward, the economist who worked with Intuit to create and analyze the survey. "Revenues have been declining for two months now, so the weak employment growth rate for July is not a surprise."
In a third recent report, SurePayroll Inc. shows hiring flat and the average paycheck down 0.2%. According to its findings, hiring was down month-over-month in every region except the South, where it was up 0.2%. Paychecks were up month-over-month in the Midwest (0.2%) and down across the rest of the nation.
"Small business owners are optimistic by nature, and they know that if you have a good idea, you can take advantage of the lower costs in this economy and be successful," said SurePayroll president and chief executive Michael Alter. "Still, we need more incentives for investors to back startups and less tax burden on small businesses."
Taken together, the three surveys indicate a stalled economy, at least in the small-business sector. And since small businesses are generally seen as a significant driver of the U.S. economy, the numbers appear consistent with other employment surveys that include businesses of all sizes.