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Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Small businesses were responsible for the entirety of the 27,000 net jobs that the private sector shed in March, according to a closely watched employment report by payroll provider ADP.

Why it matters: The extent of job losses is much worse than the ADP survey suggests, as it was conducted before states stepped up coronavirus containment efforts. But it shows that America's smallest businesses were hit hardest first, even as bigger corporations continued hiring.

By the numbers: Businesses with fewer than 50 employees shed 90,000 jobs in March, ADP found — making it the worst job loss for that group since April 2009, per Bloomberg. In February, those employers added 24,000 jobs.

  • The private sector's net job loss of only 27,000 was possible only because larger businesses were still adding workersalbeit at a slower pace than in prior monthsoffsetting some of the losses from smaller firms.
  • Companies with between 50–499 employees added 7,000 jobs.
  • Businesses with more than 500 but less than 1,000 workers added 1,000 jobs, while the largest businesses (with 1,000+ employees) added 55,000 jobs.

What to watch: The coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress allocates $350 billion in relief for small businesses, which can apply for loans starting on Friday.

  • The loans are meant to incentivize businesses to rehire workers.
  • Cash that's used to rehire and pay workers, among other things, doesn't need to be repaid.

Yes, but: The program, which works on a first-come, first-served basis, likely won't be large enough to satisfy the needs of all of America's small businesses.

  • If that's the case, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will go back to Congress and ask for more funding, he told CNBC Wednesday.

The bottom line: "Payrolls of small businesses are most vulnerable to the drop-off in activity seen as a result of the outbreak," Rhea Thomas, an economist at Wilmington Trust, wrote in a note on Wednesday.

Go deeper

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Beto O'Rourke speaks at a rally at the Texas State Capitol in June. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Actor Matthew McConaughey’s nine-point lead in a theoretical matchup against Greg Abbott shows just how vulnerable the hard-right Texas governor could be in a general election.

Why it matters: Abbott has won conservative accolades for his abortion, mask and vaccine bans. Axios reported Sunday that former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to announce a gubernatorial challenge — but a recent poll shows he’s not even the most popular Democrat in the state.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Delayed maps upend midterm campaigns

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Midterm candidates are panicking about how the congressional maps will ultimately be drawn, with several strategists telling Axios campaigns are in limbo.

Why it matters: Candidates are unsure if the district they're targeting will remain intact or be reshaped by the process. The uncertainty is especially vexing to Democrats, who are vying to maintain their narrow margin in the House.

First look: Conservatives' 2022 big target: Tax increases

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Conservative groups are unveiling huge ad-buys going after vulnerable House Democrats over tax increases and other revenue measures in their party's massive infrastructure spending bill, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: President Biden and Democrats have an immense amount of political capital riding on a $3.5 trillion bill facing razor-thin margins in both chambers. Conservatives are running ads targeting the House members who leaders will need to pass the measure.