4 of 7
BACKNEXT
Layoffs and long hours ahead
Last year: As unemployment claims mounted in 2008, small businesses were among the last to shed staff. For most of the year, while big companies underwent massive staff reductions, ADP's monthly report on its national employment estimates showed cumulative headcount growth at the nation's smallest companies, those with 50 employees or fewer. But in October, the weak sales market finally caught up to the small biz segment, which is now also showing losses.

For small companies, cutting employees often means laying off friends and family. It also leaves remaining the staffers with expanded workloads - many small business owners say they're working longer hours, thanks to the ongoing recession.

This year: American Bridal owner Shirley Tan, who recently cut her staff of 32 down to 24, expects layoffs to pick up after the lull of the holiday season: "2009 is going to be very rough for many people," she predicts.

Employment analysts expect the labor market to remain rocky. After the 2001 recession, it took four years for job levels to peak again, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In its latest member poll, the National Federation of Independent Businesses found that more companies plan to cut staff than to hire. But when the economic tides start turning, expect small companies to be the bellwether: Small businesses, typically the most agile in tough times, are traditionally the first to start hiring again. -Emily Maltby

NEXT: Credit cards: No quick fix for soaring rates

LAST UPDATE: Jan 06 2009 | 6:06 PM ET
Sponsored by
More Galleries
6 designers shaking up fashion These designers are changing the way we dress, accessorize and shop, from custom made-to-fit dresses to smart jewelry that's actually stylish. More
8 must-have travel apps Whether you've got wanderlust or an airline grievance, here are some apps to pack onto your phone. More
Secrets to success from Smalltown USA Utah State professor Michael Glauser cycled 4,000 miles this summer, visiting 100 entrepreneurs across the country. Here's a snapshot of how they grew their businesses. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.