WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Small businesses hiring was little changed in December but job creation is set to pick up in the first quarter of 2011, a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business showed on Thursday.
The NFIB monthly survey, which was released ahead of Friday’s closely watched employment report for December, showed its measure of average employment per firm was -0.07 workers compared to +0.01 in November.
“Clearly, no surge in hiring in December. In normal times, this measure would be in the range of 0.1 to 0.2 workers per firm,” the NFIB said.
The findings of the NFIB survey are at odds with Wednesday’s report by payrolls processing company ADP Employer Services, which showed private employers added 297,000 in December — the largest gain on ADP records dating to 2000.
That robust ADP report prompted many economists to raise their December payrolls forecasts.
According to a Reuters survey, nonfarm payrolls increased 175,000 after November’s tepid 39,000 gain. The unemployment rate was seen edging down to 9.7 percent from 9.8 percent in November.
But there was good news in the NFIB survey. The percent of businesses reporting hard to fill job openings increased 4 points to 13 percent, the best reading in 24 months. Plans to create jobs gained 2 points to 6, the highest level in 27 months.
“This indicates that the unemployment rate should improve in December and the months ahead,” the NFIB said. “These indicators point to a pickup in job creation activity in the first quarter of 2011.”
Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrew Hay