What To do When Business Research Collides

I follow two reports on small business employment, one done by Intuit, the king of small business accounting, which also has a payroll service, and the other by SurePayroll, which is a small business online payroll service.

But here’s the rub: reporting on small business jobs in April, the Intuit index has good news … and SurePayroll has bad news. And both are doing the same thing, reporting on a survey of their small business payroll customers.

Here’s the key data from the Intuit report for April:

Small business employment grew by 0.3 percent in April, equating to an annual growth rate of nearly 3.6 percent. This translates to approximately 60,000 new jobs. Based on this latest data, the employment growth rate for March was revised slightly up to 0.3 percent, equating to 65,000 jobs added for the month. Since the hiring trend began in October 2009, small businesses have created 845,000 jobs.

And here’s the summary, from Inc.com, of the  SurePayroll report.

The small business economy has shifted into neutral, with hiring and wages virtually flat month over month (both down 0.1 percent from March), according to the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard.

So who has the truth? Probably both. Most likely there is some difference in the composition of the two user sets. Here’s Intuit’s detail about the data:

The data for the Index is pulled in aggregate from approximately more [SIC] than 57,000 employers across the country that use Intuit Online Payroll and is published monthly on a close to real-time basis.

And I sent an email to SurePayroll’s person in charge, asking for similar information, but that hasn’t been answered yet, so I don’t really know what’s up and I don’t have enough background information to guess. Different kinds of businesses, perhaps? One is driven by payroll data and the other is asking people what they think? Is it politics, maybe? One group supports the current administration, the other doesn’t? I sure don’t know.

And here’s the other rub: what if your business depends on this data. Which picture do you believe? (Hint: both and neither?) And what if there’s a critical business decision to be made, based on this research, and you get only one or the other. Will you entertain an educated guess?

Do you think that ever happens?

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