Experts: Credit stalls Small-Business Hiring

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The official release of May jobs numbers by the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest small businesses need more access to credit if they are expected to contribute to job hiring and continue to be hurt by gas prices.

According to Friday's jobs report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the private sector added just 83,000 jobs in May, a marked slowdown from the 244,000 jobs averaged in the past three months.

Small businesses need credit extensions to jump-start hiring.

The number coincides with ADP's May Employment Report, issued Wednesday, stating that the private sector added 38,000 jobs last month -- well below consensus estimates of 170,000.

Meanwhile, the smallest businesses across the U.S., hampered by high gas prices and natural disasters, added just 45,000 workers for the four weeks ending May 23, according to Intuit's ( INTU) Small Business Employment Index.

According to preliminary results from the National Federation of Independent Business' monthly economic survey (to be released June 14), fewer small businesses plan to increase employment, while slightly more plan to reduce their work force in the next three months.

"With one in four owners still reporting 'weak sales' as their No. 1 business problem, there is little need to add employees, especially with the uncertainty about future labor costs arising from new regulation and legislation," according to a statement by NFIB Chief Economist William Dunkelberg. "And if Congress doesn't deal effectively with the trillion-dollar deficit, we've got plenty to keep us worried."

"Overall, reports of job reductions have returned to historically normal levels. However, the percent of owners hiring has not recovered to levels historically observed after two years of expansion," he added.

The survey was conducted in May and reflects 733 randomly sampled small-business owner respondents.

Coming out of a recession observers of the economy typically look to small businesses to contribute hiring. But that happens because businesses have access to credit, experts say.

Whether it's from a lack of access to the capital markets, vendors and other business partners reluctant to extend terms and fewer loans originated by banks, "we're not seeing this, and that is a core problem," says Jeff Stibel, CEO of Dun and Bradstreet Credibility.

Banks are having trouble issuing loans because traditional lending is done on quantitative terms -- credit scores -- which only more established businesses would have.

"A lot of these small businesses are coming out of a rough economy bruised and battered," Stibel says. "Looking simply at the quantitative scores, it's hard to make a decision. They need to look more toward qualitative, and that's a hard problem for the banks."

According to the Small Business Entrepreneurship Council's latest Entrepreneurs and the Economy survey, high gas prices is also undermining their ability to add jobs and compete.

The survey found that just over a quarter of small businesses said they cut back jobs or employee hours because of higher gas prices. Approximately 47% reported that higher gas expenses affect their plans to hire.

"Small-business owners are not a confident bunch these days, especially given the challenges of high energy costs and the uncertainties swirling around governmental policies," according to a statement by Ray Keating, chief economist for SBE Council. "In the end, job creation is overwhelmingly about small business, and little has been done to boost confidence in this sector."

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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