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US small-business hiring picks up in December

Thursday, January 8, 2015 - 07:04
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US small businesses stepped up hiring in December, a sign that the labour market ended 2014 on a strong note and would help the US economy weather slowing global growth.

[WASHINGTON] US small businesses stepped up hiring in December, a sign that the labour market ended 2014 on a strong note and would help the US economy weather slowing global growth.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said on Wednesday that small-business owners added an average of 0.2 worker per company last month, up from 0.05 in November. "The December results clarify the economic picture for 2015, and what we're seeing looks very promising," the NFIB said in a statement. "We've been waiting a long time for this kind of activity, but it looks like small-business owners are finally shaking off the effects of the recession." A rapidly strengthening labour market is expected to drive wages higher this year. That, together with lower gasoline prices, should provide a tail wind to consumer spending and help cushion the economy against the effects of slowing growth in China and the euro zone, as well as a recession in Japan.

Earlier on Wednesday, payrolls processor ADP said US private employers increased employment by 241,00 last month, up from 227,000 in November.

The reports come ahead of the release on Friday of the government's comprehensive employment report for December.

Nonfarm payrolls are forecast to have increased 240,000 in December after surging 321,000 in November. That would mark an 11th consecutive month of job gains above 200,000, the longest stretch since 1994.

The unemployment rate is forecast to slip 1/10th of a percentage point, to 5.7 per cent, which would be the lowest rate since June 2008.

The NFIB survey of 568 small business owners throughout the country found that 18 per cent increased employment by an average of 2.9 workers, while 9 per cent reduced their workforce by an average of 3.0 worker.

Fifty-four percent hired or tried to hire workers, but 43 percent said there were few or no qualified applicants for the vacant positions.

A quarter of all owners said they had job openings they could not fill, which supports expectations for a decline in the unemployment rate, even if payrolls in December are not very strong.

REUTERS