Small business hiring picks up in December, but still weaker than in first half of 2015

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS: Small business hiring improved in December, but from weaker levels than initially reported for October and November, payroll provider ADP said Wednesday. The company counted 95,000 new jobs at its small business customers last month, compared to 72,000 in November and 81,000 in October.

ADP lowered its count for the previous two months by a combined 18,000 jobs.

NOT A ROSY PICTURE: Small businesses created an average 75,500 jobs each month during the second half of 2015, down from an average 107,000 during the first six months of the year. Company owners stuck with their strategy of hiring only when their business justified extra staffers. And surveys throughout the year showed many owners had no plans to hire.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Economists predict the economy will grow only slightly faster this year than in 2015. That won’t encourage cautious owners to step up their hiring pace. Moreover, consumer spending has been erratic, and many small businesses including retailers and restaurants are dependent on consumers for their revenue.

In short, expect more of the same.