After a significant setback in September hiring at small businesses, the jobs situation appeared to be stabilizing in October, according to payroll figures from CBIZ.

The CBIZ Small Business Employment Index, which measures hiring trends for more than 3,500 companies with 300 or fewer employees, shrunk 0.89 percent in October, following a bigger decrease of 2.55 percent in September.

“Although the actual SBEI metric shows a decline of 0.89 percent, the number of companies hiring exceeded those decreasing employment,” CBIZ Payroll Services business unit president Philip Noftsinger said in a statement. “At a minimum, we can view this month’s numbers as stable in terms of small business employment levels, but the number of firms hiring is encouraging.”

CBIZ manages payroll services for more than 3,500 businesses. Of the companies surveyed by ADP, 25 percent increased their staffing, while 24 percent of the companies decreased their employee headcounts. Fifty-one percent of the companies surveyed maintained their current number of employees.

A critical issue is the ability of Washington to deal with the pending fiscal cliff and remove uncertainty from the marketplace, CBIZ noted. CBIZ anticipates that if companies continue to see growth in demand as well as a resolution to the fiscal cliff, there is a strong chance of positive movement in employment during the fourth quarter.

“Businesses want longer term predictability, similar to what the Fed chairman is projecting with regard to interest rates,” said Noftsinger. “Small business owners are more adept at long-term planning than they were pre-recession, and they are not motivated by short-term solutions to major economic issues and the volatility they present.”