Payroll provider SurePayroll said it is seeing rising optimism among small business owners, even as hiring and average paycheck size declined at their businesses.

The SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard for May 2013 indicated optimism among small businesses had risen to 75 percent, increasing for the fifth straight month and up from a year-over-year low of 45 percent in September 2012. However, month-over-month hiring fell 0.3 percent in May and the average paycheck was down 0.1 percent.

“We appear to be in a jobless recovery,” said SurePayroll CEO and President Michael Alter in a statement. “Many small businesses are doing well and feeling good about the economy with optimism on the rise. However, there hasn’t been sufficient growth to hire.”

For the survey, SurePayroll asked small business owners what conditions were necessary to hire and they listed too much to do, demand and specific expertise to meet clients’ needs. On the other hand, the top challenges they listed included finding qualified candidates, understanding what they need and finding the right candidate for the salary offered.

“The demand isn’t there, and small businesses have become more efficient, which often means less hiring,” Alter noted. “For those looking to hire, it’s not easy to find the specific critical skills you need. Until we see more demand, whether it’s from new businesses or an increasingly robust housing market, we’re not likely to get the full recovery we want.”

Hiring at small businesses was down month over month in every region of the country except for the South, where it was flat. Paychecks were up month over month in the Midwest (0.1 percent). Paychecks were down across the rest of the country, dropping the most (0.3 percent) in the Northeast.

Year over year, nationwide hiring is down 1.7 percent and paychecks are up 0.2 percent, according to SurePayoll. Year over year, the South is the only region where hiring is up at 1.6 percent, but paychecks there are flat. The West shows a hiring decline of 3.8 percent, with paychecks down 0.6 percent. Hiring in the Midwest is down 2.9 percent and paychecks are positive, up 4.3 percent. In the Northeast, hiring is down 3.5 percent and paychecks are down 2.1 percent.

The full SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard infographic, including data for the top 35 metropolitan areas, is available on the SurePayroll blog.

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