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Job growth at small U.S. firms continued in January, according to the latest employment survey from the National Federation of Independent Business. The NFIB report, due out later today, finds a continuing trend of revival from the worst of last spring’s Covid shutdowns. According to NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg, job openings are plentiful and finding workers remains a challenge for small businesses:

Thirty-three percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, up 1 point from December... Overall, 51 percent reported hiring or trying to hire in January, unchanged from December. Owners have plans to fill open positions, with a seasonally adjusted net 17 percent planning to create new jobs in the next three months, unchanged from December. Their success will depend in part on whether or not the economy is opened up by regulators and consumers return.

In the meantime, continuing economic revival and the massive stimulus plans enacted in Washington last year are driving wages higher for employees at small firms. According to NFIB:

Seasonally adjusted, a net 25 percent reported raising compensation (up 4 points) and a net 17 percent plan to do so in the coming months, up 3 points.

Today’s NFIB report is consistent with numerous other readings showing a healthy U.S. economy at businesses both large and small. And the good news is happenings across various sectors. The Journal’s Paul Hannon and Gwynn Guilford report that “IHS Markit said its U.S. services index was 58.3, up from 54.8 in December and the second-sharpest increase in almost six years." The Journalists add:

Stronger client demand and an upturn in new business drove the expansion, said Chris Williamson, IHS Markit’s chief business economist. Many companies indicated that they see demand reviving even more as business restrictions imposed amid a coronavirus surge late last year are relaxed.

“Companies have become increasingly upbeat amid news of vaccine roll-outs and hopes of further stimulus," said Mr. Williamson.

Separately, the Institute for Supply Management’s nonmanufacturing index rose to 58.7 in January, from 57.7 in December and the highest reading since February 2019.

As for hiring, NFIB isn’t the only one sharing encouraging news. The Journal’s Hannah Lang reports:

The number of workers seeking unemployment benefits fell to 779,000 last week, a sign that layoffs have started to ease following an increase in early January.

The decline in the week ended Jan. 30 marked the third week of lower filings. But it leaves initial claims—a proxy for layoffs—at a higher weekly level than before the winter surge in coronavirus cases.

Weekly claims had increased since November, when they were consistently below a seasonally adjusted 800,000, to reach 927,000 during the week of Jan. 9, the Labor Department said. Current levels remain well above the pre-pandemic peak of 695,000 and are higher than in any previous recession for records tracing back to 1967.

The Labor Department lowered its estimate for claims in the prior week to 812,000 from 847,000.

The latest data should give Americans hope that the economic revival that began last summer is set to continue.

Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival."

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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