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

Health care costs come into focus

Newly proposed health care regulations state that paid-leave vacation counts toward employees’ full-time status. (iStockphoto)

The Internal Revenue Service has proposed regulations to govern the employer mandate portion of the health care reform law, which takes effect next year. Employers caught a break with some temporary provisions meant to ease the transition into the new requirements, but some won’t be pleased that paid leave for vacations, illness and jury duty are among the hours that count toward an employee’s full-time status.

IRS simplifies home-office calculation

The agency has also announced a simpler system for calculating tax exemptions for work-at-home professionals. The change allows taxpayers to deduct $5 per square foot of home office space up to 300 feet and is expected to save taxpayers a combined 1.6 million hours a year in form-filing time.

Unemployment ratio shows strong signs of improvement

The number of unemployed persons per job opening in the United States declined to 3.28 in November, the lowest ratio since the heart of the recession in October 2008, a sign that the job market is indeed showing strong (albeit slow) signs of recovery.

SEC considers new stock exchange

The Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies for the Securities and Exchange Commission is preparing to urge the agency to create a new stock exchange for small public companies, according to The Wall Street Journal. The group will also urge the agency to increase of the number of small firms that can qualify for exemptions from certain disclosure requirements.

Outsourcing taken to a new level

A software engineer for an American company was reportedly caught last week outsourcing his work-from-home job duties to a Chinese subcontractor, and had been receiving excellent marks for his work while shelling out only one fifth of his salary to his counterpart in China. Investigators later learned that the individual had pulled off the scheme many times before.

Economic growth slowing

The World Bank last week trimmed its expectations of global economic growth to 2.4 percent, down from the 3 percent expansion it predicted back in June. The following day, the Federal Reserve issued a report that economic growth in the vast majority of its banking regions remains “modest or moderate” to start the new year.

Regions anticipating uptick in venture capital

While Silicon Valley is expected to remain the nation’s premier destination for entrepreneurs, lesser known start-up ecosystems such as those in Chicago, Omaha, Des Moines, Las Angeles and the Washington region are primed to see a significant rise in venture capital investments in the coming year, according to new projections from the investment firm Revolution LLC in the District.

OSB business of the week: Deep Space Industries. The new start-up is taking on James Cameron, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt in the race to harness and study near-Earth asteroids.

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

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