Most small businesses in the United States remained cautious about hiring new employees during the past three months, according to a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business.

The results were issued a day ahead of the Labor Department's release of national employment figures expected to show hiring gathered steam in January.

Asked about changes in total employment over the past three months, 11 percent of owners reported increasing employment at their firms by an average of 2.8 workers while 15 percent reported reducing total employment an average of 2.9 workers per form. the small business group said.

Clearly, no surge in hiring in the last few months, the report said. The survey, conducted in January, was based on 2,144 responses from NFIB's member firms.

(Reporting by Glenn Somerville; Editing by Andrew Hay)