Small-business employment surged in July at the sharpest rate this year, even as larger companies continued to cut jobs to offset weaker earnings, national payroll data shows.

The number of jobs at small businesses rose last month by 0.2 percent, boosting year-to-date job growth to two percent, according to SurePayroll, a Chicago-based small-business payroll firm.

At the same time, small-business wages continued to fall, declining by an average of one percent nationwide, the firm reported. The biggest declines were reported in the South, where wages dropped by 5.4 percent.

The West was the only region where small employers bucked the national trend, reducing payrolls by 0.1 percent and raising wages by 3.8 percent.

The findings are based on payroll data from over 20,000 small businesses.