Small biz job numbers sluggish

December 12, 2013 Updated Dec 12, 2013 at 9:36 AM EDT

By David Bertola, Buffalo Business First Reporter

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Small biz job numbers sluggish

December 12, 2013 Updated Dec 12, 2013 at 9:36 AM EDT

The small-business hiring trend stayed positive in November, but that is as good at it gets, said chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business William Dunkelberg.

Dunkelberg spoke following the organization's release of its monthly survey results on Dec. 10. Conducted in November, the survey reflected responses of 762 National Federation of Independent Business members.

"While National Federation of Independent Business owners increased employment last month, it was only by an average of 0.05 workers per firm seasonally adjusted, half the October figure, and historically low," he said. "Seasonally adjusted, 14 percent of the owners reported adding an average of 3.7 workers per firm over the past few months. Offsetting that, 12 percent reduced employment an average of 3.4 workers, producing the seasonally adjusted gain of 0.05 workers per firm overall."

Dunkelberg added:

• The remaining 74 percent of owners made no net change in employment.

• Fifty-one percent of owners hired or tried to hire in the last three months.

• 44 percent reported few or no qualified applicants for open positions, the highest reading since October 2007.

William Grieshober, an adviser at Small Business Development Center at SUNY Buffalo State, said that a number of factors couple be playing into the decision by small business owners to hold off on hiring.

"It doesn't seem as if the economy is going great guns, but people are concerned about the Affordable Care Act," he said. "There are still more questions than answers and small businesses are concerned about how it applies to them. They need to know more, and they need insurance themselves. Because this is up in the air that's what people are spending their time on."

Dunkelberg said reports of workforce reductions remained historically low, although three points higher than October's record low level of 9 percent.

Overall, most of the employment indicators posted positive gains, indicating a somewhat better job creation figure and a lower unemployment rate reading.

"But this is not a lot of progress for this far into a recovery," Dunkelberg said.