Small Business Labor Shortage Worsens in September

Fifty-one percent (seasonally adjusted) of small business owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, up one point from August and a record-high reading for the second consecutive month, according to National Federation of Independent Business’s (NFIB’s) monthly jobs report. The number of unfilled job openings continues to exceed the 48-year historical average of 22 percent.

“More and more small business owners are struggling to find workers for their open positions,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “For most small employers, labor costs are the largest operating outlay and owners will be compelled to pass those costs on to their customers by raising prices.”

A net 42 percent (seasonally adjusted) of owners reported raising compensation, up one point from August and a 48-year record high reading. A net 30 percent plan to raise compensation in the next three months, up four points from August’s record high reading.

Overall, 67 percent of small employers reported hiring or trying to hire in September, up one point from August. Small business owners’ plans to fill open positions remain at record high levels, with a seasonally adjusted net 26 percent planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down six points from August and the fifth-highest reading in the 48-year history of the survey and well above the historical average reading of a net 11 percent.

Ninety-two percent of those employers hiring or trying to hire reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Thirty-four percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions and 28 percent reported none.

Twelve percent of owners cited labor costs as their top business problem, up two points and a 48-year record high. Twenty-eight percent said that labor quality was their top business problem, unchanged from August and a record high reading.

Forty-six percent of owners have openings for skilled workers (up two points) and 28 percent have openings for unskilled labor (up one point). In the construction industry, 67 percent of the job openings are for skilled workers. Eighty percent of construction firms reported few or no qualified applicants (up 13 points).

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