Our daily blend of the latest news, trends and tips for the small business community.

What’s going ‘on’:

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said he was especially concerned about the recovery of the jobs market. (Andrew Harrer/BLOOMBERG)

Small business hiring lags national picture: The nation’s overall jobs picture is improving, according to Labor Department data released Friday, but small businesses have yet to see similar hiring gains. The nation’s smallest employers added few net new jobs last month, analyses of the data from two small-business organizations show.

Fed chief fires warning at Congress: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Thursday cautioned lawmakers against taking any steps that would hurt economic growth as they work to cut the nation’s debt, and he defended the central bank’s recent actions to support the economy. In testimony before the House Budget Committee, Bernanke urged Congress to put a priority on finding a sustainable level of federal spending over coming decades.

Small business exports improving slowly: Ever since the president set out to double American sales overseas two years ago, small firms have slowly increased their share of the nation’s exports, according to new federal data. Companies with fewer than 500 employees accounted for 35 percent of exports in the third quarter of 2011, up from about 32.8 percent in 2009.

Retailers open year with solid sales gains: Retailers reported mixed sales results for the month in a sign that consumers continue to be cautious about when and where they spend their money. Overall, merchants reported a 4.8 percent increase for January, according to the International Council of Shopping Center’s tally of 20 retailers.

Keep an eye ‘on’:

College entrepreneurial competitions evolving: Entrepreneurship programs across the country are taking a more practical approach to their age-old business pitch competitions, requiring students to do less planning and more legwork, according to The Wall Street Journal. The contests, which usually involved a team of students selling their plan to a panel of judges, rarely produce successful businesses, which critics say is because they don’t reward promising entrepreneurs with tested ideas.

A dozen cities already adding jobs in 2012:Hiring by small businesses across the country slowed ever so slightly in January, according to the most recent data from SurePayroll. However, employers in 12 areas bucked the national trend by adding workers during the month, including seven spots along the East Coast and three cities in a single state.

Helpful advice ‘on’:

How to find more loyal customers (Small Business Tech)

How to manage your social media efforts (NFIB)

How to build trust with online customers (Portfolio)

How an iPad can transform bad business meetings (Inc.)

How software should drive tech firms (Nashville Biz Blog)