A new report from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) shows that small companies hired more new workers in September than at any point in the last eight months. The NFIB said its monthly survey of its members found they added an average of 0.24 workers per firm last month, on a seasonally adjusted basis. It was the fastest rate the organization has recorded since December of 2013, and it was the 12th consecutive month of growth.
The survey, which measured employment trends at 608 U.S. small businesses, came on the heels of the Department of Labor report last Friday that showed U.S. companies added 248,000 jobs to their payrolls last month. The results helped push the unemployment rate down to 5.9%, the first time it has stood under 6% since 2008. The business services sector – a category that includes engineers, accountants and architects – had the strongest September for hiring, adding 81,000 jobs. Retailers contributed 35,000 positions, while the health care market provided 23,000 and the construction field brought on 16,000 new workers.
The NFIB gauge of small business hiring, though, did have some notes of caution. Half of the owners surveyed said they tried to hire new employees in the past three months, but 84% of those hiring companies said they found few or no qualified candidates for open positions. “Twenty-one percent of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, down 5 points, which is not a good sign for improvements in the unemployment rate,” said William Dunkelberg, chief economist for the NFIB. “Fifteen percent reported using temporary workers, down a point from last month.”
Even further, the survey showed that small business owners aren’t completely optimistic about their upcoming hiring plans. The number of companies saying they plan to increase their payrolls in the next three to six months, fell one percentage point to only 9%. “Reports of past hiring were very strong, suggesting a good jobs number,” Dunkelberg said, “but job openings and job creation plans faded, casting a shadow over the job market outcomes.”