Small businesses continued to lead the nation's job growth  last month, though at a slower pace than July, ADP reported this week.

While large and midsize employers shed 53,000 jobs in August, those with fewer than 50 employees added 20,000, according to the Roseland, N.J,-based payroll firm. Overall, total employment fell by 33,000 jobs, with continued losses in the manufacturing and goods-producing sectors.

"The decline in August continues the recent trend in employment that is consistent with an economy that is growing slowly but has not fallen into recession," said Joel Prakken, the chairman of Macroeconomic Advisors, a St. Louis, Mo.-based research firm that prepares ADP's monthly employment reports.

The results are based on payroll data from some 500,000 businesses nationwide.

Todd Stottlemyer, president of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the latest employment figures underlined the importance of small businesses  for the U.S. economy.

"Our nation's policymakers, including the presidential candidates, need to pay heed to the message in these numbers," Stottlemyer said in a statement. "Take care of small business and its needs, and we will continue to drive America's economic engine."