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Hiring Numbers Up, Unemployment Rate Steady

Though the latest job numbers push into positive territory, unemployment remains high and wages stagnant even in IT, but there's some good news for SMBs.

Though the latest job numbers push into positive territory, unemployment remains high and wages stagnant even in IT, but there's some good news for SMBs.The good news about the numbers released by the Labor Department is they indicate job creation. The US economy created 162,000 new jobs in March. That's the largest seasonally-adjusted increase in non-farm payrolls in three years.

The increase was anticipated and widely predicted, but as with all statistics there are some footnotes and fine print that take the bloom off the rose. Let's run through a few. Some predictions were as high as 200,000 jobs for March, so 162,000, though positive, is a disappointment. Plus, 48,00 of those new jobs are held by temporary US Census workers. As if the once-per-decade count-fest hiring wasn't juicing the numbers enough, some of the new jobs are attributed to pent up hiring demand from the snowmaggedon that brought commerce to a crawl in February.

One number that didn't budge is the unemployment rate. It's holding steady at 9.7% for the third straight month, representing approximately 15 million Americans out of work; that's double the number of unemployed in December 2007.

Those without jobs aren't the only ones seeing a relentless stream of disheartening news. The amount of time spent at work is increasing and the compensation is waning. The average workweek increased by 12 minutes to 33.3 hours (that reverses the weather-induced downturn of February) and average hourly wages fell by $.02 to $18.90. That's the first decline on record; though the records in this case only date to 2006, so it's less dramatic than it first appears.

According to the annual InformationWeek IT salary survey, the US IT workers won't be getting raises this year for the first time in the last 11 years. The median raise will be 0% and 40% of IT professionals report salary freezes (it was 26% in 2009), 15% have taken pay cuts (only 6% did in 2009), and 29% have seen their benefits reduced (it was 17% in 2009). So much for vaunted riches of working in IT.

But as we saw earlier this week with the release of the Intuit Small Business Employment Index, there are signs of life in the small business sector. According to the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard, small businesses have increased hiring 3.1% this year and increased payroll by 0.4%. Moreover, the survey found optimism about small business owners, albeit down from 2007 levels. The complete findings are available here.

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