jobsThe newly released February 2013 SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard has shown a slight 0.1 percent gain in month-over-month hiring alongside a 0.1 percent rise in the average paycheck; the fourth consecutive pay raise in as many months. Optimism for small-business owners sat at a fairly low 59 percent, a mere two points higher than in January.

“We continue to see low optimism numbers due to a new wave of uncertainty for small-business owners,” said SurePayroll CEO and President Michael Alter. “We thought we were moving past the uncertainty when we got through the fiscal cliff situation; however we’re getting hit with another wave. Economic conditions in Europe are shaky due to what’s happening in Italy and the downgrade of British debt, while here at home no one can agree on what, if any, fallout there will be from the sequester. Given this new tidal wave of uncertainty rushing in, I can’t blame small-business owners for playing it close to the vest.”

When asked about the proposed hike in minimum wage to $9 per hour, 79 percent of small businesses said it would not affect hiring plans and 59 percent supported the increase. But 71 percent said minimum wage setting should be the prerogative of the states and 77 percent said they already pay over their state minimum wage rates. Hiring was found to have fallen in every region except the South, which saw a slight 0.1 percent uptick. Paychecks were up across the board including 0.4 percent in the Midwest, 0.1 percent in the Northeast, 0.1 percent in the South, and flat in the West.

Nationally, hiring is down 1.4 percent and paychecks are flat. The South is the only region where hiring is up (1.7 percent) but paychecks are down 0.2 percent. The West saw a hiring decline of 4.4 percent with paycheck flat. Hiring in the Midwest was down 2.1 percent with a 3.3 percent increase in paychecks and the Northeast experienced a 2.4 percent decline in hiring and paychecks fell 2.6 percent.

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