ECONOMY

ADP says small business hiring soars 104,000 in February

BIG HIRING BOOST: Small businesses stepped up their hiring pace in February, adding 104,000 jobs, payroll provider ADP said Wednesday. The increase followed a gain of 62,000 in January, and was more than triple the monthly average of 33,000 from September through December. ADP's report was based on data from its small business customers, those with fewer than 50 employees.

The gains were almost evenly split between companies with one to 19 workers, and those with 20 to 49. Manufacturers added 39,000, and service providers like retailers and restaurants added 65,000.

WHAT'S GOING ON: The hiring surge indicates that business owners are feeling more optimistic about their companies and the economy. The ADP report is in line with surveys taken since the election showing owners are more confident and that a growing number are planning to expand. Hiring at small businesses since the recession has been erratic at best, and fell sharply during the second half of 2016; it has not kept pace with job creation at larger companies.

WHAT'S UP NEXT: The government releases its jobs report on Friday. It won't break out hiring by company size, but it will give an indication of how businesses in general are feeling about taking on more staffers.