Small business employment regained momentum last month after losing some steam during the fall and early winter, and is again growing near the same pace as the end of last summer, according to a new report.

The report, from payroll processing service Paychex and the research firm IHS, found that their Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index grew 0.19 percent in February to 100.84. Year over year, however, the national index declined 0.31 percent.

The national index is trending higher, indicating strengthening employment conditions for the nation’s small businesses. February 2015 gains were broad-based regionally with only two regions showing a decline, albeit marginal, at 0.05 percent. Signifying strong growth, 13 of the 20 states analyzed have index levels over 101.  

“Small businesses are off to a solid start in 2015 when it comes to job growth,” said Paychex president and CEO Martin Mucci in a statement. “While it’s still early in the year, the first two months have seen consistent positive improvement.”

The West North Central region continues to be the top-performing region of the country. Fast-paced job growth continued in the other Central regions of the country as well, all reflecting index levels well above 101.

“Small business job gains have accelerated in the New Year as the U.S. economy continues to improve,” said James Diffley, chief regional economist at IHS.

The Pacific region had the best gains during February and through the past quarter; at 0.59 percent, the three-month growth rate for the Pacific region is its highest since late 2012. Hovering around 100 for several months now, New England fell slightly below 100 again in February and had the worst one-month result, declining 0.05 percent.

Despite the largest decline from January to February, 0.68 percent, Indiana remains the top-ranked state.

At 103.23, the Texas index placed second and also finished the year second among states in total job gains, according to the BLS. Florida had the next highest 12-month growth rate at 1.12 percent as the BLS ranked Florida in the top five among states in total job growth. February marked the fifth consecutive one-month increase for Georgia as its index is at its highest level since 2006. Virginia and New Jersey, the states currently with the lowest index levels, were in the bottom five states for overall job gains in 2014, according to the BLS.

Dallas, meanwhile, posted its fifth consecutive month in the top spot among metro areas. At 103.51 in February, Dallas has posted the highest metro index every month since October 2014. Rebounding from January, Houston surged 1.02 percent ranking second among the metros areas, despite oil price deflation.

Miami had strong one-month and 12-month results in February, pushing its index level over 100. While both metros remain near a 101 index level, Riverside, Calif., and St. Louis, Mo., have dropped dramatically during the past 12 months, falling by more than 2 percent.

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