Starts for the first half of the year decreased 16.2%, to 31,766, according to Dun & Bradstreet. "Although the boom in new business activity is declining after two years of record growth, the number of workers hired was off by only 4.1%," said Joseph W. Duncan, the company's corporate economist and chief statistician. Business starts in the first half decreased in seven major industry sectors. The largest decrease was reported in retailing, down 33.7% to 9,355. New retailing employees decreased 22% to 55,018.