U.S. small businesses did virtually no hiring in February, finds advocacy group; economists say small-business hiring needs to increase for nation's jobless rate to fall significantly

NEW YORK , March 5, 2012 () – Small companies did little hiring in February, according to a survey released Friday by a small business advocacy group.

The National Federation of Independent Business said members who took part in its survey added an average of 0.04 workers per company last month. That was up from an average of no workers added in January, but was still what the NFIB called a "break even report."

Fourteen percent of the participants said they added an average 2.9 workers over the past few months, while 12 percent cut an average of 3.5 jobs. The remaining 74 percent made no changes. The survey questioned 642 randomly chosen members of the group. The NFIB, based in Washington, is an advocate for small businesses at the national and state levels.

Economists have been waiting for small businesses to step up their hiring so the unemployment rate can start to drop significantly from January's 8.3 percent level. Job growth has been increasing, with 243,000 positions added in January. Economists predict that the Labor Department next Friday will say that 210,000 jobs were added in February.

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