In a major policy shift, the Federal Reserve will start announcing four times a year how long it plans to keep short-term interest rates at current levels, according to minutes from its most recent policy meeting. Currently, the forecasts include estimates for unemployment, inflation and economic growth, but not interest rates.

Small business hiring ends year on sour note

The nation’s smallest firms lost an average of 0.15 workers per firm last month, according to the latest data from the National Federation of Independent Business. Nine percent of respondents said they plan to increase employment over the next three months, while 8 percent plan to reduce their workforce.

Obama completes SBIR/SBTT reauthorization

Last week, while still on vacation in Hawaii, President Obama signed the national defense bill, an amendment to which reauthorizes two long-standing small business research and development programs. House and Senate lawmakers compromised on a deal to rescue the programs in early December.

SBA launches online tool for Native Americans

The agency on Wednesday announced a new free, online business course for Native American business owners. The program provides an overview of basic business principles and highlights a number of programs and services available from the Small Business Administration.

Manufacturing demand recovering

Orders to American factories rose 1.8 percent in November, marking the greatest increase in four months, according to data released by the Commerce Department. The previous month’s manufacturing estimates were also revised up 0.2 percent, with demand for aircraft, automobiles and metals compensating for a drop in orders for computers and electronics.