Survey: 85% of NFIB TN members trying to fill job openings

Three out of five owners cite the $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit as primary reason they can’t find applicants

NASHVILLE — Eighty-five percent of NFIB members in Tennessee say they’re hiring, but 94% of those business owners say they’re having problems getting people to apply, a new survey shows. 

NFIB State Director Jim Brownsaid 63% of owners having trouble finding applicants cite the current $300 weekly federal unemployment benefit as a primary reason. The federal benefit is set to expire July 3 in Tennessee following Gov. Bill Lee’s recent executive action.

“Small business owners from Memphis to Bristol are hanging ‘Help Wanted’ signs and asking customers for patience because of the staffing shortage,” Brown said. 

“This survey and feedback from individual members show Tennessee is experiencing a crisis where available workers are remaining on the sidelines primarily because of the current federal unemployment benefit,” Brown said. 

“We expect better days are ahead since Tennessee will be ending the benefit before the Sept. 6 federal expiration date, joining at least 19 other states, but the near term for many small businesses will remain exceedingly challenging,” he said.

The online survey asked NFIB Tennessee members why they couldn’t find job applicants:

  • 63% said lack of applicants willing to work for pay that’s comparable to their unemployment benefits.
  • 45% said lack of qualified applicants with the required skills and experience.
  • 25% said lack of applicants who can pass a drug screen.
  • 22% said lack of applicants willing to return to the workforce due to the pandemic.
  • 12% said “other” reasons.

The latest NFIB Small Business Economic Trends survey shows a record 44% of small business owners nationwide have positions they can’t fill – an all-time high reading that’s 22 points above the 48-year national historical average.

Brown said the Tennessee survey shows nearly 80% of NFIB Tennessee members have increased wages in the past year and that 18% from that group expect to increase wages again within three months.

“Our survey data shows many NFIB members have responded to the tight labor market by boosting pay and offering incentive bonuses to show for interviews and at hirings,” Brown said. “Our members recognized the importance of last year’s federal weekly benefit when many businesses were shut down during the pandemic, but they’re frustrated now that this year’s benefit is sidelining many workers with so many unfilled positions.” 

NFIB has posted a Return-to-Work Guide for its members in Tennessee, which is available to the public.

The National Federation of Independent Business is the nation’s leading small business advocacy organization. To learn more about NFIB in Tennessee, visit and follow @NFIB_TN on Twitter.

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