As we saw in the post-Thanksgiving retail reports, more holiday shoppers came out this year than last. Unfortunately, they spent less, giving us the "More Shoppers, Less Spending" mantra seen all over the news. The latest SurePayroll Scorecard headline has a similar ring. Replace "shoppers" with "hiring" and "spending" with "pay" and you have this month's small business hiring and pay summary.

Small employers are more actively hiring than they were last year, but like the holiday shoppers, they are being much more careful with cash.

According to the November Scorecard, which aggregates data from more than 25,000 small businesses nationwide, hiring is up in November from October, bringing us to a 2.6 percent increase year-to-date. But don't get too optimistic. Like the past few months, we can thank a continued reliance on independent contractors for the majority of the increase.

Small business salaries continue to decline, with a national year-to-date drop of 8 percent. It's no wonder holiday shoppers are spending less. On average, the small business employee earned 9 percent less year-to-date in 2009 than during the same time period in 2008.

I agree with all you business owners who continue to play it safe, hiring temporary staff and conserving cash while waiting for solid signs that the worst of the recession is coming to a close. Tightening your purse strings isn't fun, especially around the holidays when employees may be used to gifts, bonuses, or other holiday extras that just can't be given this year. You'll have to get creative and come up with non-monetary ways to bring holiday joy to the office, such as giving your employees extra comp days or hosting an in-office holiday lunch. Get through this tough time with as much cash in hand and you'll be happy you put yourself in the best possible position to grow when the economy turns.

For a broader picture of the small business economy, check for the full SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard data for November, including regional and key-states result.