Small-business growth expands again in Feb: Paychex-IHS

Small-business growth expanded in February to the highest level in nearly a year, according to a new study.

The Paychex IHS Small Business Index expanded last month to 100.75, up 0.10 percent from January and just 0.08 percent below the February 2015 level. A reading above 100 indicates growth.

The index has now regained all of its losses going back to April, Paychex and IHS said.

"The good news here is that this last three months has basically made up for all the decreases we had last year, so it's a pretty strong last three months for us, and it's broad based," Marty Mucci, Paychex president and CEO, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday.

The Mountain states continued to sit atop regional rankings for small-business growth last month, while Washington led states for a second-straight month. Dallas was first among metros, according to the report.

The North Central region, which stretches from Kansas to North Dakota, was ranked lowest, with contraction likely due to the impact of low oil prices, Paychex and IHS said.

At the industry level, services excluding public administration hit a record reading of 104.85 in February.

Construction also showed strength, tacking on the fifth monthly gain in the last six months.

Mucci said wage growth among small businesses is edging closer to 3 percent after many months of 2 percent growth.

"We definitely have seen the wage per hour go up pretty strongly here in the last couple of months," he said.

It's still early to begin attributing the improved pay data to minimum wage increases, Mucci said. Employers are beginning to experience a scarcity of workers as the unemployment rate continues to fall, he added.

The Paychex IHS Small Business Index measures same-store, year-over-year changes in worker count to determine trends in small business employment.

Paychex is an outsourcing solutions firm, and IHS provides information and analysis.

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