Small businesses with one to 10 employees saw a month-over-month increase in hiring of one-tenth of a percent this month, according to the payroll provider SurePayroll.

The increase, while small, is significant considering that SurePayroll’s monthly Small Business Scorecard has reported small business hiring as flat or down month-over-month for a year.

Year-over-year hiring is still down 0.7 percent nationwide, according to the company’s scorecard. However, optimism among small business owners is high at 70 percent. By comparison, optimism was only at 54 percent in August of 2010.

"It’s not a trend yet, but it's a step in the right direction," said SurePayroll general manager Andy Roe in a statement on the hiring increase. “We've seen small businesses grow their profitability using technology and innovation, now hopefully we're starting to see them grow their staffs a bit more."

Independent contractors receiving 1099 forms comprised more than 6 percent of small business employees in August, as they have over the past year, more than double the number 10 years ago, according to data from SurePayroll.

The Scorecard optimism survey in August found that 22 percent of small business owners are more likely to hire an independent contractor than a full-time worker. Less than 1 percent said they had a hard time finding qualified contractors for various jobs.

"What's happening right now is you have a lot of skilled people available to do freelance on an as-needed basis,” said Roe. “It allows small businesses to get some really good work from qualified people with very specific expertise, without having to pay the costs of having an employee.”

On a regional level, hiring increased 0.3 percent in the South and 0.1 percent in the West in August. However, hiring fell 0.1 percent in the Midwest and 0.2 percent in the Northeast. The average paycheck dropped 0.5 percent nationwide after being up in July. The average paycheck was down across the country this month: 0.5 percent in the Midwest; 0.6 percent in the Northeast; 0.3 percent in the South and 0.5 percent in the West. The average paycheck will sometimes fall as hiring rises, SurePayroll noted, because there is less overtime paid to existing workers.

An infographic on the scorecard is available here.

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