Small businesses extend erratic hiring streak in July

STILL NO CLEAR TREND: Small businesses extended their erratic hiring streak in July, creating 61,000 jobs compared to June’s 95,000, ADP said Wednesday. Hiring at the payroll company’s customers with 49 or fewer employees has seesawed this year, with back-to-back increases only in March and April.

While ADP’s service businesses added 64,000 jobs last month, manufacturing customers cut 3,000.

WHAT THE NUMBERS TELL US: Business owners aren’t going out on a limb; they’re not taking on new staffers unless they absolutely need them and unless their revenue is strong enough to justify the added risk and expense of new hires. The economy isn’t giving them any incentives to expand — the Commerce Department reported last week that the gross domestic product rose at an annual rate of just 1.2 per cent during the second quarter. The department also revised the first-quarter GDP downward, to an annual growth rate of 0.8 per cent from the previously reported 1.1 per cent.

WHAT TO EXPECT: Economists expect little change in small business hiring for much of the second half of this year. Uncertainty about the presidential election is also discouraging owners from making any big moves.

The Labor Department’s July employment report, due out Friday, may give more clues about what business owners are doing, although it doesn’t break down hiring by company size.