Owners reporting labor quality as their top small business operating problem remains elevated at 23 percent, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB)’s monthly jobs report. Labor costs reported as the single most important problem to business owners decreased one point to 11 percent, just two points below the highest reading of 13 percent reached in December 2021.
“The labor force participation rate remains below pre-COVID levels, which is contributing to the shortage of workers available to fill open positions,” said Bill Dunkelberg, chief economist for NFIB. “Small business owners are struggling to take advantage of current sales opportunities.”
Forty-three percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, down four points from February. Thirty-four percent of owners have openings for skilled workers and 19 percent have openings for unskilled labor.
Small business owners’ plans to fill open positions continued to ease, with a seasonally adjusted net 15 percent planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down two points from February and well below the recent peak of 23 percent reached last September. While large businesses shed workers, small business owners have reported some hiring success in the last four months, with more firms reporting increased employment than reductions.
Overall, 59 percent reported hiring or trying to hire in March, down one point from last month. Of those hiring or trying to hire, 90 percent of owners reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Twenty-six percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions and 27 percent reported none.
Seasonally adjusted, a net 42 percent of owners reported raising compensation, down four points from February. A net 22 percent plan to raise compensation in the next three months.