Much of the job growth in Wisconsin in the past eight years has been at small businesses across the state, Gov. Scott Walker said during a campaign stop Thursday in Eau Claire.

“I’ve tried to look out for small businesses in the state,” Walker said while visiting Auto Value Eau Claire. “This year, more people are employed in Wisconsin than ever before. There are career opportunities abundant in this state.”

There are more jobs at the variety of small businesses in the state than the large employers, he said. With unemployment in the state at or below 3 percent for the past eight months, there are plenty of jobs available, he said.

“Sometimes, we forget how bad it was,” Walker said of the economy eight years ago, noting that many people took pay cuts to keep their jobs, or they left Wisconsin to find work.

On Thursday, the National Federation of Independent Business endorsed Walker for re-election, with just under two weeks to go before the Nov. 6 election.

Bill Smith, NFIB state director, described Walker as a “true champion of small business” while endorsing the governor.

“(As a legislator), he had one of the most consistent records of supporting small business,” Smith said. “From the moment he was sworn in (as governor), he made small businesses a top priority of his administration.”

Smith said that Walker has held the line on taxes, repealed the prevailing wage and improved conditions for small businesses to work efficiently.

Walker touted work his administration has done on health insurance, saying that a stability plan led to a 4 percent reduction in premiums by January from a year ago. He said that reduction is extremely important to small businesses. He added that under state health insurance plans, people with pre-existing health conditions will still be protected.

Walker’s opponent, Democrat Tony Evers, disagreed with Walker’s statements.

“With just days left in the election, Scott Walker is still running from his terrible health care record,” said Evers’ spokesman Alex Japko. “Walker’s refusal to accept federal money to expand BadgerCare has cost taxpayers over $1 billion. And let’s not forget: Walker is still suing to undermine protections for 2.4 million Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions. It’s time for a change.”

Walker said he’s pleased with the job growth, but he added more must be done. He said they need to continue to attract out-of-state residents to come here to work, retain students already here and create more job-readiness programs in schools.

“Our small businesses are saying we need people with the skill sets to move into the workforce,” Walker said.

For instance, youth apprenticeship programs could be offered to students in seventh and eighth grade, he said.

“I don’t want to wait until they are in high school,” he said.