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Small business hires drop, resume listless trend, ADP says

Small business hiring fell back in September, resuming a listless trend following a one-month upswing.

That report came from payroll company ADP, which counted 30,000 new jobs at its small business customers, those with under 50 employees. These companies added 55,000 jobs in August and just 4,000 in July.

The report was a sign that business owners are growing more cautious as they see the economy weaken in response to the Trump administration’s escalating trade war. The latest disappointing economic indicator was Tuesday’s report from the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group, that said manufacturing activity slowed further last month. U.S. manufacturers have been hurt by tariffs on imported raw materials and components, and by retaliatory tariffs that China and other trading partners have imposed on U.S. goods. The ISM report said manufacturers are cutting jobs.

So far year, small businesses tracked by ADP have added on average nearly 28,600 jobs a month, compared with 52,000 in 2018. ADP’s numbers are subject to significant revisions and can have wide swings. The August number was originally reported as 66,000.

Small business hiring fell in September along with job creation at companies of all sizes; ADP said its business customers added 135,000 jobs, compared to a monthly average of 225,000 last year.

Employers overall have reported difficulties finding qualified workers, a problem that has held back hiring. But the slower hiring this year has accompanied increasing uncertainty about the economy and the impact of tariffs on U.S. companies.