Ahead of Friday’s unemployment report, I wanted to take a look at how the job gains and losses of small firms compares to midsize and large firms. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Business Employment Dynamics and the visualization tool ManyEyes, I built the chart embedded below. It only has data through the end of 2008, at which point large employers were leading the job losses with more than 1.3 million shed that year, compared to 700,000 for midsize businesses, and 1 million for small businesses. (Here small is under 50 employees, midsize is 50-500 and large is over 500. All job losses are measured in thousands.)

The trend from the last recession shows small businesses laying off fewer employees during the downturn, and they expanded employment earlier, with net job growth in 2003, a year before larger firms added net employment. Once they resumed hiring, however, larger firms created more jobs.

The ADP employment report Wednesday showed job losses among small and midsize businesses slowing while large companies continued to shed jobs at the same rate in August. Overall, job losses are declining, but economists predict months of net losses still ahead.

Laurent Belsie points out in the Christian Science Monitor’s New Economy blog that it’s unusual for small businesses to lead job losses:

For the second month in a row, they’ve laid off more workers than mid-sized or large employers, according to an ADP employment report released Wednesday. That’s a first. Until August, small businesses (those with fewer than 50 workers) had never been the biggest generator of layoffs since ADP began tracking the figures in 2001. The September figures, released Wednesday, confirm the trend.

The Labor Department data released Friday won’t be broken out by firm size for months. But I’m curious to hear what readers are doing in their business. Is your company hiring, laying people off, or holding steady? When do you expect to begin hiring? And how do your own staffing decisions compare to larger competitors in your industry?

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