Small business hiring woes are showing signs of easing as the economy continues to strengthen

NEW YORK (AP) — Hiring woes may be easing for small businesses.

The CBIZ Small Business Employment Index reported a seasonally adjusted 0.17% increase in February as the U.S. economy remained strong despite higher interest rates.

Small businesses have a harder time retaining workers because they often can't offer higher wages or other perks like health insurance.

The CBIZ Index tracks hiring at thousands of companies with 300 or fewer employees across the United States.

„The US economy has shown unexpected strength in a high interest rate environment,” said Anna Rathbun, CBIZ's chief investment officer. „It's clear that small businesses are now holding onto that strength, as they steadily expanded their workforces in February.”

In February, 20% of companies in the index hired more employees, while 60% made no changes to their headquarters. Meanwhile, 20% of employees were cut.

Some professions are better than others. Occupations with hiring gains include administrative and support services; arts, entertainment and recreation; and technology and life sciences. Decreases were seen in accommodation and food services, insurance and utilities.

On a regional basis, the West, Southeast and Central regions saw slight increases in hiring, while the Northeast region saw a slight decline.

The small business trend echoes the broader market. US employers added 275,000 jobs in February. February's job growth represented an increase from a revised gain of 229,000 jobs in January.

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