Led by small employers, nonfarm private payrolls grew by 8,000 new jobs in March following deep cuts earlier this year, ADP reported this week.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees created 55,000 new jobs last month, which were offset by continued job losses at large manufacturers and other big businesses, according to the Roseland, N.J.-based payroll processing firm.

Despite the moderate gains, employment growth has dropped to a fraction of its pace 12 months ago. By contrast, private payrolls grew by 106,000 new jobs in March 2007, the report said.

The monthly ADP employment report is based on payroll data from approximately 392,000 companies, representing 24 million employees. The federal government's employment data for March is set to be released later this week.