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

Small businesses start skrinking again: Small business firings outpaced hirings for the first time this year, as employment declined an average of 0.04 workers per small company in May, according to a

The economy added 175,000 jobs in May, without much aid from small firms. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

report by the National Federation of Independent Business. The group’s hiring index had been trending upward for the past five months.

The economy continues to grow slowly: Despite marginal help from small businesses, the economy added a better-than-expected 175,000 jobs last month, according to data issued by the the Labor Department. Still, it wasn’t enough to prevent the national unemployment rate from nudging up a tenth of a point to 7.6 percent.

Small business lending on the rise: On a brighter note, small businesses are starting to get their hands on the capital they so desperately need. A number of reports in the past month show that the credit market that remained largely frozen after the recession has started to thaw for entrepreneurs in search of funding.

Silicon Valley at the center of federal data mining program: The National Security Agency has been tapping into the servers of nine of the biggest Internet firms in Silicon Valley, including Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, according to files obtained by The Washington Post. The companies have denied knowledge of the program.

Competition heating up in the point-of-sale arena:Square unveiled an iPad app for quick-service restaurants, Groupon launched its new point-of-sale system for the iPad, and PayPal integrated with several third-party mobile payment systems — all in the past month, and all in an attempt to take the lead in the small business payments market.

Small business owners back LGBT protections: A strong majority of small business owners believe federal and state laws should prohibit workplace discrimination against gay and transgender people, according to a new poll released by the Small Business Majority. Moreover, most do not realize such laws do not exist at the federal level.

Nation’s capital ripe for small businesses: Washington, D.C. ranks second (right behind Houston, Texas) on a new list of the fastest growing small business cities in the United States. Compiled by lending marketplace Biz2Credit, the rankings take into account business size, age, annual revenue, and credit scores in each metropolitan region.

OSB start-up of the week: Valkee: The start-up has raised $9.7 million from venture capitalists for a device meant to alleviate seasonal affective disorder by shining bright lights into users’ ears.

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

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