The National Federation of Independent Business said employment fell by an average of 0.1 per firm from 0.3 in September, according to its survey of 2,077 small businesses.
The jobless rate is seen holding steady at 9.1 percent for a fourth straight month.
The NFIB survey showed 12 percent of small-business owners added an average of 3.2 workers over the past few months, while 11 percent reduced employment by an average of 3.6 workers, an improvement from September.
The remaining 77 percent of owners made no net change in employment, with just under a third reporting few or no qualified applicants for positions.
Over the next three months, about 9 percent of small-business owners plan to hire new workers, down 2 percentage points from September, while 12 percent intend to reduce their head count. That was unchanged from September.
Photo by Kevin Dooley