Small employers continue to lead the nation's job growth, though at a slower pace. Here's a look at this week's economic developments and how they may affect your business.

Job Growth Eases

Smaller employers created 20,000 new jobs last month, down from 46,000 in July, ADP reported Thursday.

At the same time, large and midsize businesses shed 53,000, driving total employment for August down by 33,000, according to the Roseland, N.J.-based payroll firm.

Employment losses continued in the manufacturing and goods-producing sectors, where the number of jobs has declined steadily for more than a year.

"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.

Chain-Store Sales Steady

Bad weather and a later start for back-to-school shopping put a damper on sales at the nation's chain stores in August, the International Council of Shopping Centers reported Wednesday.

Sales last month grew by just 1.7 percent on a year-over-year same-store basis, the trade group said.

"For the industry as a whole, we expect September sales to post an increase of about two percent," Michael Niemira, the group's chef economist, said in a statement.

Jobless Claims Rise

The number of new claims for unemployment benefit rose by 15,000 last week to 444,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

The adjusted unemployment rate the previous week was unchanged at 2.6 percent, representing about 3.435 million people filing jobless claims.

The largest increases in new claims last week were in Texas, Wisconsin and New York, while declines were reported in Georgia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.