Worker Shortage Remains a Top Issue for Small Businesses

Staffing shortages hindering small business operations

Washington – Small business owners reporting labor quality as their top business operating problem remains elevated at 22% in September, according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report. Labor cost reported as the single most important problem to business owners was unchanged at 10%.

“The worker shortage remains challenging for many small business owners nationwide,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Staffing shortages have limited small business owners’ ability to fully take advantage of current sales opportunities and they continue to adjust business operations to compensate.”

Forty-six percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, down three points from August. The number of unfilled job openings far exceeds the 48-year historical average of 23%. Forty-two percent of owners have openings for skilled workers and 22% have openings for unskilled labor.

Small business owners’ plans to fill open positions remain high, with a seasonally adjusted net 23% planning to create new jobs in the next three months, up two points from August.

Overall, 64% reported hiring or trying to hire in September, up one point from August. Eighty-nine percent of those owners hiring or trying to hire reported few or no qualified applicants for their open positions. Twenty-seven percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions and 30% reported none.

Seasonally adjusted, a net 45% of owners reported raising compensation, down one point from August and five points below the 48-year record high set in January. A net 23% plan to raise compensation in the next three months, down three points from August.

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