Small businesses struggle to find qualified labor

NASHVILLE – According to NFIB’s national October Jobs Report, small businesses are looking to hire employees as they reported a historically high level of job openings in October. Overall, 55% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in October, down one point from September. Thirty-three percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, down three points from September’s report.

“The small business labor market is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and the state and local regulations that further hindered small business operations,” said Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB chief economist. “The large increase in the number of unemployed has done little to help small businesses improve the quality of their applicants. Firms have more openings for skilled workers and are having trouble matching available workers with available jobs.”

NFIB State Director Jim Brown said, “NFIB members in Tennessee are telling us they’re hiring, and jobs are available in many industries. The state’s website alone has nearly 230,000 positions listed. Compensation is increasing, as well, at many businesses. Businesses that are growing and recovering need workers very much right now to operate and help our economy recover.”

Small businesses increased employment by 0.1 workers per firm on average over the past few months, an increase of 0.09 workers per firm from September. Up one point, 11% of owners reported increasing employment an average of 0.3 workers per firm, and 14% (down 2 points) reported reducing employment an average of 3.8 workers per firm (seasonally adjusted). A seasonally-adjusted net 18% of owners are planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down five points from September but historically a very strong reading.

Finding qualified employees remains a problem for small businesses with 87% of those trying to hire reporting few or no “qualified” applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Twenty-eight percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions and 20% reported none.

A net 23% of owners reported raising compensation (unchanged) and a net 18% plan to do so in the coming months, up two points. Eight percent of owners cited labor costs as their top business problem (down one point), but 21% said that labor quality was their top business concern, exceeding taxes, regulations and weak sales.

Twenty-nine percent of owners reported opening for skilled workers (down three points) and 14% have job openings for unskilled labor (down two points). Forty-four percent of the job openings in the construction industry are for skilled workers. Fifty-eight percent of construction firms reported few or no qualified applicants for their job openings, and 35% cited the shortage of qualified labor as their top business problem.

Click here to view the entire NFIB jobs report.

About NFIB 

For more than 75 years, NFIB has been advocating on behalf of America’s small and independent business owners, both in Washington, D.C., and in all 50 state capitals. NFIB is nonprofit, nonpartisan and member-driven. Since our founding in 1943, NFIB has been exclusively dedicated to small and independent businesses and remains so today. For more information, please visit

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