But number of open positions suggests better times ahead.
In a sign of the recession's aggressive spread, small businesses cut almost a quarter of a million jobs in February, according to a recent report.
The survey, which polled 400,000 small business, all clients of business outsourcing firm ADP, found that they shed 262,000 jobs in February.
"The magnitude of this month's job loss indicates that the recession has spread aggressively to small-size businesses," said Joel Prakken, chairmen of forecasting firm Macroeconomic Advisers. "Earlier in the recession these businesses had demonstrated more resiliency than medium- and large-size ones, but that is no longer the case."
The National Federation of Independent Business also released data suggesting small businesses continue to struggle. Their optimism index fell to 82.6, its second-lowest level in 35 years. In the past three months, the survey has recorded the largest decline in average employment per firm in its history. Only 3 percent of owners reported hiring plans, the lowest rates since the recessions of the mid-1970s and early 1980s.
Some good news came in the form of open positions, a significant predictor of the unemployment rate. Unfulfilled job openings remained at 11 percent, unchanged from February. NFIB chief economist William Dunkelberg called the reading a positive sign.