Record Number of Small Business Owners Report Labor Quality as Top Business Problem

Small business owners continue to struggle to increase their workforce with 29 percent of owners reporting labor quality as their top business problem in November, a 48-year record high. Ten percent of owners cited labor costs as their top problem, according to National Federation of Independent Business’s (NFIB’s) monthly jobs report.

“Unfortunately, the tight labor market has not eased for small business owners,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Unfilled positions and labor quality remain the biggest challenges for small business owners as they work to get back to pre-crisis levels. Owners have been increasing compensation to record-high levels to attract the right employees to their business.”

Forty-eight percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period. The number of unfilled job openings far exceeds the 48-year historical average of 22 percent.

Overall, 60 percent of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in November, down two points from October. Small business owners’ plans to fill open positions remain at record high levels, with a seasonally adjusted net 25 percent planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down one point from October but still the third-highest reading in the 48-year history of the survey.

Ninety-three percent of those owners hiring or trying to hire reported few or no qualified applicants for the position they were trying to fill. Thirty percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions and 26 percent reported none.

Seasonally adjusted, a net 44 percent reported raising compensation, unchanged from October and a 48-year record high reading. A net 32 percent plan to raise compensation in the next three months, unchanged from October’s record high reading.

Forty-one percent of owners have openings for skilled workers and 22 percent have openings for unskilled labor. In the construction industry, 46 percent of the job openings are for skilled workers. Sixty-four percent of construction firms reported few or no qualified applicants.

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