San Antonio’s reputation as an economic dynamo was polished this week by a report from a national payroll services company showing area small businesses increased hiring more than any other city in the U.S. last year.
The SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard showed that SurePayroll customers in San Antonio hired 8.3 percent more people in 2011, the top rate among 35 metropolitan areas in the study and far better than the hiring rate nationally, which fell by 3.2 percent.
Orlando, Fla., and Las Vegas finished second and third behind San Antonio with growth rates of 7.1 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively, but most of the cities saw small-business hiring fall last year. In Houston, it was down by 2.8 percent, while Dallas’ small businesses produced a hiring increase of 0.9 percent.
Economists said the small-business job numbers that SurePayroll recorded for San Antonio reflect more growth than expected when the government finalizes overall job counts for 2011.
Travis Tullos, a regional economist with TXP Inc., said the labor force in San Antonio enjoyed “a solid rebound” last year, but not as high as the SurePayroll report suggests – The only city growing as rapidly as San Antonio is Houston, Tullos said. Both cities have benefited from explosive growth in the energy sector.
Michael Alter, SurePayroll’s CEO and president, called San Antonio one of the nation’s best performers with an economy in “a solid phase one recovery. ”
Nationally, 2011 was a tough year for small businesses, Alter said. But a survey his company conducted on small-business owner optimism showed growing hopefulness about the future. Two in three of the respondents expressed optimism about upcoming business activity, up from one in three in September, and half of the business owners said they expected to hire more in 2012, Alter said. In addition, 98 percent of the business owners expect to keep wages flat this year or to provide raises. Alter was not certain if that level of optimism could be sustained. But the upbeat mood, he said, should help the economy get moving.