job index shows growing small businessesThe Paychex | IHS Small Business Jobs Index declined 0.18 percent in the past 12 months, bringing the national index to 100.56 in December, though there remain positive employment gains. With the strongest 12-month growth rate, the West North Central region maintained its lead among the regions. At 102.64, Washington continued to be the top-performing state for the third consecutive month. Dallas, meanwhile, held the top position among metro areas, despite a .64 percent one-month decline.

Small business employment growth, while still positive, has seen the rate of gains decrease 0.28 percent over the past three months. At 100.56, small businesses continue to add jobs, but at a slower pace.

The West North Central region remained the highest at 102.33 and had the best 12-month growth rate at 1.01 percent. Although the Pacific region had the weakest 12-month growth rate at -0.87 percent, the index level has been at or above 101 for more than two years, indicating strong long-term employment gains. After falling below 100 last month for the first time since 2011, the Middle Atlantic region decreased again in December. Joining both the Middle and South Atlantic regions, New England also fell below 100.

Washington ended 2014 with the highest state index at 102.64, while Texas, Wisconsin, and Michigan also exceeded 102. North Carolina and Georgia led all states in one-month growth rates for December, while Georgia had the best 12-month growth rate as well. With an index level below 98, New Jersey and Virginia are the worst ranked states and, according to the BLS, have been in the bottom five among states in overall employment gains.

Despite a sharp decline in December, Dallas continues to lead metro index levels at 102.84. Leading in year-over-year gains at 2.23 percent, Minneapolis has steadily risen to the second ranked metro index. Chicago spiked 0.55 percent in December bringing its index level to 101.05, while Atlanta and Detroit also had solid one-month gains. Tampa Bay and Washington metros fell below 99 in December and ended 2014 the lowest ranked metro indices.

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