Small business employment growth has remained relatively stable for the second month in a row, according to payroll service giant Paychex.

The Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index increased only slightly from 100.63 in June to 100.64 in July. The national index essentially remained flat from May to July and trailed the employment growth seen last year, declining 0.46 percent from the previous July.

“The index has remained pretty consistent,” said Paychex president and CEO Martin Mucci. “Employment growth is positive and steady, but it is pretty much unchanged from the first half of 2015 as we begin the second half of the year. The good news is that over the past 12 months, the index has been consistently over 100, so it’s indicating slow, steady continuation of job gains over the our base year.”

The East North Central region continued to be the highest-ranked regional index. Washington maintained its lead among states. For the 10th consecutive month, Dallas ranked number one among metropolitan areas for employment growth, with an index level surpassing 105.

“Seven out of the nine regions of the country increased the rate of employment growth in July, so that’s good news,” said Mucci. “The Central region of the country still had the strongest job gains, although the Mountain region has really seen the best improvement over the last three months. I think that’s due to high-tech job growth, so it’s not surprising that Washington State has remained in the top spot. Michigan, Wisconsin and Texas are in the next three. Texas is really interesting in the fact that it’s a tale of two cities. Dallas continues to hold the top spot from a city perspective. That’s for 10 months in a row, and yet Houston dropped again this month and went below 100 on our index. I think that’s from gas and oil retrenchment and the jobs in small businesses around that.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, total job growth for Texas has fallen from near the top to among the middle of all states. Miami jumped 0.60 percent in July to 101.28, an eight-year high. Washington dropped 0.68 percent and is the only metropolitan area with an index below 98.

Mucci believes that increases in part-time employment and the proposed changes in the overtime rules from the Obama administration will have the most impact in the payroll area for accountants and their business clients. In June, the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule that would raise the threshold for certain salaried workers who are exempt from claiming overtime pay from $23,660 to $50,440, potentially allowing another 5 million workers to earn larger paychecks (see Paychex Sees Opportunities for Accountants from Proposed Changes in Overtime Pay).

“Part-time employment inched up again for the month of July, to about 8.2 percent of the total employment population,” said Mucci. “That’s up over 2.5 percent in the last two years. The new overtime rules are out for comment. I think they’re going to impact a lot more businesses in how they have to pay for overtime. I think that’s going to drive a lot more businesses to look to accountants and HR professionals to say, ‘Hey, can you help me? Are these jobs exempt or non-exempt now? Do I have to pay overtime or not? Is there a better way for me to track my time? Is there a better way for me to employ people so that I can control my costs?’ These overtime rules raise tremendously the number of employees that could receive overtime. It really could have a big, costly impact on businesses, so I that’s the most important for the accounting community. It could really pick up a lot of employees, particularly in small to midsize businesses. Even at large businesses, like Paychex, it will have a big impact. You will have to be careful in how you’re setting up your employees to be exempt or non-exempt, making sure you’re following the rules, and then you’re going to track the overtime that you’re paying for a lot more closely.”

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