CBIZ said Thursday that its Small Business Employment Index for March indicated the highest month-over-month growth in hiring since June 2010.

The index, which measures hiring trends among companies with 300 or fewer employees using CBIZ’s payroll services, increased by 1.66 percent in March, after inching up just 0.25 percent in February (see CBIZ Sees Slight Rebound in Small Biz Employment).

Thursday’s announcement by CBIZ follows ADP’s March jobs survey, which found that the private sector added 209,000 jobs last month, including 100,000 jobs at small businesses with less than 50 employees (see ADP Finds Private Sector Added 209,000 Jobs in March).  Intuit also reported an increase in small business employment hiring in March in a separate surveys it released this week of its Online Payroll clients, while SurePayroll found a small decrease among its small business payroll clients (see Intuit Sees Jump in Small Business Employment and SurePayroll Sees Small Business Optimism Rising). The official employment numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics are due to come out Friday.

Currently, CBIZ Payroll Services manages payroll services for more than 3,000 businesses that employ fewer than 300 people. The sample reflects a broad array of industries and geographies corresponding to the markets across the United States where CBIZ provides services.

Of the companies surveyed by CBIZ, the data indicated that 28 percent reported an increase in employee headcount while 18 percent decreased staffing. 54 percent of the companies involved in the survey maintained their number of employees.

“This is the highest month-over-month growth since June 2010, and represents a growing trend across the marketplace that employment is healing at all levels,” said CBIZ Payroll Services business unit president Philip Noftsinger in a statement. “In addition, the number of firms adding workers versus no change or reductions was solid as well, demonstrating a broader based increase. We now have a solid trend in employment going into the spring.”

CBIZ noted that sustained gains will be important for future growth. Consumer confidence, raising gas prices and this summer’s seasonal business activity will continue to play a direct role on the road to recovery.

“While our March report shows a 1.66 percent growth in small business employment, continued increases in the prices of fuel could lead to more guarded hiring, as costs to employers increase,” said Noftsinger. “We will watch closely to determine if the growth is sustainable given future cost pressures on small business seem likely.”

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