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Small Business Add Employees, And Lengthen The Workweek

The number of people employed at U.S. small businesses rose in April 2010, as did total compensation and hours worked, according to the latest Intuit Small Business Employment Index. We won't have an official reading for another week, but strength in small business hiring, as well as today's news that GDP strengthened on higher consumer spending, suggest we'll see a better picture for private employment at the macro level as well.

While rising head counts at small businesses certainly are welcome news, the report is not a complete surprise. According to Intuit, small firm employment turned down sooner, and fell further, than for the U.S. as a whole, so their staffs are probably more stretched than those of larger companies.

Click on the graph for an extremely large image
The Intuit report comes a week ahead of the government's jobs situation report for April, which does not break out trends for small versus large. It's also a few days prior to the ADP National Employment report, which backs into an inference on small businesses (relying on methods I find to be flawed).

Last month's government employment report showed gains, albeit wind-aided, boosted by hiring for the census. But unemployment metrics have been dropping, both in new and continuing claims, as we learn from the excellent economics team at Northern Trust:

Initial jobless claims fell 11,000 to 448,000 during the week ended April 24. Continuing claims, which lag initial jobless claims by one week, also declined 18,000 to 4.645 million and the insured unemployment rate held at 3.6%. More importantly, total continuing claims, inclusive of claims under special programs, is edging down. Total continuing claims stood at 10.065 million for the week ended April 10 vs. 10.179 million in the prior week. The high for total continuing claims was registered a month ago at 10.699...
Last, I made a long drive Wednesday and Thursday, from my headquarters in Gotham to the leafy suburbs of Philadelphia, and heard several times on National Public Radio that in Middle America, restaurant owners are seeing higher sales, as more people order dessert. So maybe it's looking better.