(FILES)People seeking jobs wait in a line that stretches down the block from a youth center to speak to over 60 employers at an employment fair in this May 3, 2012 file photo in the Queens borough of New York. (STAN HONDA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Most small businesses remained reluctant to hire in September, according to a new report by the National Federation of Independent Business.

Some 77 percent of small businesses said they made no net change in employment during the month, and 13 percent said they reduced employment by an average of three workers. The seasonally adjusted data showed that 10 percent of owners reported adding more than 2 employees per firm.

The number of small business owners with a hard to fill job opening fell to 17 percent in September. The low percentage was made worse by the fact that 80 percent of those trying to hire reported finding few or no applicants for open positions.

The NFIB report for September, the last to be issued before the Novermber elections, painted a bleaker picture than August, when the trade group said small business hiring was “essentially zero.

The outlook was slightly better for the states in the west, north and central parts of the country — Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. That region showed positive job growth, largely as a result of energy production.

“It isn’t any wonder that small firms are not hiring; given the tenuous political and economic atmosphere, owners are right to remain pessimistic about the future. They have been given little reason to increase their employment rolls,” Chief economist for the NFIB William C. Dunkelberg said in a statement.

A frequent critic of Obama’s policies, the NFIB has heavily endorsed Republicans during the 2012 election cycle. The majority of its contributions and its advertising budget have supported Republicans and opposed Democrats, according to OpenSecrets records.

The last jobs report suggests a poor outlook for economic recovery, as small businesses employ roughly half the private sector workforce.

“Winter is likely to set in early,” Dunkelberg said.

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This story was updated to indicate that 17 percent of small businesses owners had hard to fill job openings. An earlier version reported that 17 percent of small business owners had job openings.