Last updated: February 17. 2013 9:50AM - 44 Views

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NEW YORK ‚?? If you are trying to figure out if small businesses are hiring, it depends on where you look.

Just last Friday when the government was raising suspicious eyebrows with its report of a sudden drop in the unemployment rate so close to a presidential election, Andy Asbury was hiring a full-time employee to work at his Minneapolis real estate brokerage.

Sales at his agency, Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Area Leaders, are up 25 percent from a year ago and he‚??s getting signals from prospective sellers that things are going to get busier and he‚??s gearing up.

‚??People are planting the seeds right now for when they want to make their move,‚?Ě he says.

Small businesses employ about half the nation‚??s work force, or about 60 million people, so keeping track of how small business owners like Asbury are faring is key to figuring out if the economy is getting better or worse.

There are some encouraging signs. Asbury and others in the housing and construction industries are feeling confident enough to add workers. So are parts of the manufacturing industry as demand for cars and trucks picks up. Many companies in the health care field are bringing on new workers as the full implementation of the health care overhaul nears and baby boomers age.

The September report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the number of salaried real estate workers has risen by 195,000 in the last 12 months. In the auto industry, including parts makers, employment is up by 51,700, or 7 percent. The BLS doesn‚??t break out employment in health care consulting services, but hiring at management and technical consulting services for businesses is up by 637,000 or 5.8 percent.

Also, in September, 118,000 people started their own business , according to the Labor Department.

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