SurePayroll found hiring at small businesses has dropped 2.7 percent year to date, while optimism among small business owners has fallen to a record low of 33 percent in September.

The payroll processor’s Small Business Scorecard, which includes hiring and wage information for the top 35 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas, indicated flat or decreased hiring for the 12th month in a row, with a year-to-date decline in hiring of 2.7 percent. Wages remained down slightly at 0.4 percent for the year.

The record low of 33 percent of small business owners who reported feeling optimistic about the economy in September was down significantly from June, when 67 percent reported being optimistic, as well as last month, when 48 percent indicated they were optimistic. The SurePayroll Optimism Survey also found that small business owners’ confidence in the government’s ability to stimulate the economy remains low, despite jobs proposals from the White House. The survey found that 20 percent were more optimistic after the President's speech in early September, while 40 percent were more pessimistic. Thirty percent felt President Obama’s proposal would increase jobs, while 70% felt it would do nothing, or decrease jobs, and only 10 percent of the survey respondents indicated they might hire if the plan is enacted.

“The continued economic uncertainty has small businesses sitting on the edge of their seats hoping for a Hollywood ending that doesn't appear likely anytime soon," said SurePayroll president and CEO Michael Alter. “The good news is that small businesses are continuing to work smarter in the face of uncertainty, relying on technology to improve efficiency while still getting the most out of employees.”

The company found that small business owners continue to rely on contractors to fill their needs versus hiring new employees. Contractor use showed a month over month increase of 2.3 percent.

For the sixth month in a row, the South remains the only positive hiring region, having experienced minimal month-over-month growth in hiring. In contrast, the Northeast, Midwest, and West all continue to show negative month-over-month growth. Year to date, the South is up 0.4 percent, while the other regions are all negative.

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