A review of some of the biggest small business and start-up stories from the past week, with a focus on Washington.

SHOP exchanges pushed back further

During a congressional hearing last week, Marilyn Tavenner, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, revealed another delay for the federal government’s new small-business insurance exchange, explaining that employers will not be able to enroll in plans online until the end of next month.

That important feature had already been delayed once, and at the time, White House officials said it would be ready by the start of November. Responding to questions from the House Ways and Means committee, Tavenner said the site would be functional “at the end of November.”

Obamacare creating a larger part-time workforce?

Critics of the health care law have warned that companies will pull back on part-time workers’ hours in response to a rule requiring them to cover anyone who works more than 30 hours a week.

New government data suggests employers are not yet taking that tack with their current employees (the percentage of employees who work between 26 and 29 hours per week has barely budged this week), however, the share of new jobs that are part-time has surged from around 10 percent to more than 60 percent.

More firms planing to add health coverage

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of small business owners report that their health insurance premiums have risen this year, according to the first installment in a new three-year study by the Washington-based National Federation of Independent Business. Nevertheless, the number of small firms planning to add health coverage next year exceeds the number planning to drop their plans, the survey showed.

SBA le nding holds steady

The Small Business Administration supported around $30 billion in loans to small companies for the third consecutive year in fiscal 2013, the agency said last week, even as small-business lending nationwide has tapered off. While the agency’s total amount of loan guarantees decreased slightly from $30.25 billion last year to $29.6 billion in 2013, the total number of loans edged up from 53,848 to 54,106.

Small firms bracing for slow holiday season

Many small-business owners worry the recent government shutdown could put a damper on the upcoming shopping season, according to newsurveys by Manta, an online small-business directory. A September poll showed that 21 percent of small companies were expecting a slower holiday season this year, however, a second reading taken days after the shutdown ended showed that number had jumped to 43 percent.

Small business employment slips

It was another tough month on Main Street, according to the latest readings by payroll services provider Intuit, which showed that the number of small-business workers, their compensation and their hours all dropped in October. It marks the fourth consecutive month of employment declines and the 27th straight month in which the average number of hours worked by employees of small firms has slipped.

What are you keeping an eye on this week? Please let us know below.

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