Let's call it the Yogi Berra economy. As 2013 began a lot like the last few years did, it's starting to feel like déjà vu all over again.
What I see in SurePayroll's January Small Business Scorecard is that the number of people on payroll dropped slightly (0.1 percent), optimism is low (57 percent), and the average paycheck is up (0.6 percent). Among the 40,000 business owners SurePayroll surveys, productivity gains are still outpacing revenue growth.
Not All Bad
In some ways, this is good for small businesses; they're growing. But more has to happen to help small businesses increase the number of people in the workforce.
The expiration of the payroll tax holiday, which amounts to a 2 percent hit to employee pocketbooks, doesn't make the situation any easier. According to the Scorecard, four in five small business owners are not able to dole out raises to make up for the payroll tax increase.
They may use performance-based bonus incentive programs to deal with this change. Indeed, the average paycheck has increased for three consecutive months, but that's likely because businesses are relying more on existing workers, and reducing seasonal staff now that the holidays are over.
What the Future Holds
The January results seem to point to another year of slow, gradual growth, rather than a significant boost in hiring that Americans are waiting on.
MICHAEL ALTER is president of SurePayroll, America’s leading online payroll service. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University. @michaelalter