NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Small businesses continue to add jobs, but the pace of hiring seems to be flattening.
Five months ago, the sector started picking up, adding over 100,000 jobs in December and January, according to data compiled by ADP, a payroll processor.
In April, however, the hiring growth started losing a bit of steam.
During that month, businesses with fewer than 50 employees added 84,000 jobs, down slightly from the 100,000 jobs added in March, according to ADP, which released its most recent report on Wednesday.
The positive hiring numbers suggest the sector is strengthening slowly after getting hard hit during the recession.
Small businesses shed more than 2.7 million jobs between April of 2008 and Feb. 2010, according to ADP data. But they have only added back 788,000 since March of 2010.
Meanwhile, the nation's smallest businesses are adding jobs in a similar manner.
Firms with fewer than 20 employees added 60,000 new jobs in April, down from 70,000 in January, but up from the 50,000 in February and March, according to data from Intuit, the creator of popular tax software program TurboTax.
"While we have a long way to go to full employment, we have seen continued improvement now for a year-and-a-half," said Susan Woodward, the economist who worked with Intuit to create the Index, in a written statement.
Small business employment trends are especially critical for the national labor market because small businesses make up the lion's share of job generation in the country.
The government's monthly job report -- due out Friday -- is expected to show that the unemployment rate held at 8.8%, according to a survey of economists conducted by CNNMoney. The unemployment rate shed a full percentage point between December and March.
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