The softness in employment growth appears to be evaporating in one key sector of the economy: small business. According to the July survey of the National Federation of Independent Business, the group's members have been strengthening their hiring plans, with a net 15% of small businesses planning to expand employment in coming months. What's more, 25% of all companies reported that they had one or more jobs that were hard to fill--a record percentage for the current expansion.

More good news: Despite stronger hiring plans, NFIB economist William C. Dunkelberg notes that labor-compensation growth among small businesses remains modest. Only 23% reported boosting wages in July, significantly less than earlier this year.

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