Payroll giant Paychex reported Monday that its index of small business employment saw the strongest one-month gain since its peak in April of last year.

Following several months of slowing employment growth, the Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index grew 0.09 percent in January, representing the strongest one-month gain since the national index peaked in April 2014. Year-over-year, however, the national index declined 0.38 percent.

The West North Central region remained the top regional index, despite having the worst one-month growth rate, according to Paychex and research firm partner IHS. Indiana jumped to the top-ranked state index and Dallas continued its hold on the top spot among metro areas.

“The Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index began 2015 on an upswing, gaining 0.09 percent during January,” said James Diffley, chief regional economist at HIS, in a statement. “Though still below 2014 levels, at 100.65, small business employment growth remains robust.”

While growth accelerated in January, the improvement has not reversed the downturn seen in the latter half of 2014, Paychex and HIS cautioned. Still, 15 of the 20 states analyzed indicated positive movement last month. At this rate, small business employment is growing near the same pace seen during the last quarter of 2013. 

“Following several months of slower employment growth, it’s encouraging to see small businesses start the New Year on a high note,” said Paychex president and CEO Martin Mucci. “We’re hopeful that this will be a positive trend small businesses continue to see throughout 2015.”

At 101.83, the East North Central region iof the country jumped to the second ranked regional index with the best one-month growth rate for the second consecutive month. Despite having the worst one-month growth rate at -0.42 percent, the West North Central remains the top-performing regional index, according to Paychex and IHS. The Atlantic regions both showed positive gains in January, yet remain below the 100 mark.

Indiana surged to the number one ranked state index in January. While the surge will probably be unsustainable, according to Paychex and IHS, Indiana ranked 15th in overall fourth-quarter job growth as measured by the BLS. Boasting strong growth rates, the Georgia index is at its highest level since 2006.  However, New Jersey remains the lowest-ranked state index, lagging in small business and total jobs.

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