Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

Payroll service provider ADP (Automatic Data Processing, Inc.) reports that its customers with up to 49 employees added 12,000 jobs only in February.  The number of additional jobs is down sharply compared to 107,000 in January and 84,000 in December. Small business hiring was also relatively weak compared to the 183.000 jobs added by the other larger ADP’s business customers.

The dramatic drop in hiring by small businesses is seen as a sign that company owners could be becoming cautious about the economy.

The February figures could still be revised like the January and December data. However, the erratic rate of hiring is seen as a reflection of the slippage in business owners’ optimism that was shown in recent surveys.

Economists have been forecasting an economic slowdown this year and many small business owners are cautious.

Economists see an economic growth rate of about 1 percent in the first quarter, down from 2.6 percent in the last quarter of 2018.