Small businesses across the U.S. added 50,000 people to payrolls in July, continuing the trend of small increases in hiring that started nearly two years ago.

According to a monthly report released Monday from Intuit, hiring grew by 0.2 percent between June 24 and July 23—which would work out to an annual growth rate of 2.9 percent.  Washington state saw the largest gains, with 0.6 percent, while Maryland saw the biggest losses, with -0.2 percent. The figures are based on small businesses that have fewer than 20 employees and use Intuit’s online payroll software.

Small businesses have created some 715,000 jobs since October 2009, says the report.

Pay for employees of small businesses also rose slightly: 0.6 percent for the month, or an annual rate of 7.6 percent. Average monthly pay in July was $2,682, up from $2,666 in June. Using July figures, that works out to about $32,200 per year.

Hours worked at small businesses also grew, by 0.7 percent, which works out to an 8.6 percent rate of annual growth. The average hourly employee at these companies had a 25.4 hour work week. Roughly 65 percent of small business employees are hourly, and 30.3 percent of them worked more than 140 hours in the month of July, up from 30.1 percent in June.

"This increase in hours worked is very good news and shows that small businesses have work to do," says Susan Woodward, an economist who worked with Intuit on the report. Also, increased compensation plus the rise in employment and hiring rate "means there is finally competition for workers," she says.

She adds: "July’s small business data cheers me up."