U.S. small business employment climbs by most in a year

WASHINGTON, April 3 Wed Apr 3, 2013 9:46am EDT

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WASHINGTON, April 3 (Reuters) - U.S. small business employment grew in March by the most in a year, a sign of ongoing healing in the labor market despite government belt-tightening that is expected to weigh on the economy.

The National Federation of Independent Business said on Wednesday that employment grew by 0.19 workers per firm last month. It was the fourth straight month in which employment grew and the highest reading since March 2012.

The increase comes despite a series of austerity measures enacted by Washington, including a tax hike in January and across-the-board budget cuts enacted in March. Most economists think austerity will hold back economic growth this year.

The increase in employment at small businesses could bode well for hiring in the overall economy, although a separate measure of job creation among private employers pointed in the other direction. The ADP National Employment Report showed 158,000 new private sector jobs in March, the weakest gain in five months.

The government is expected to report on Friday that employers added 200,000 jobs last month, according to a Reuters survey of economists, down from 236,000 in February. The unemployment rate is seen steady at 7.7 percent.

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