Small business facing tight labor market

Small business owners are optimistic about the future and want to hire, but are struggling to find qualified workers, according to the February NFIB Jobs Report, released today.

“The post-election optimism we’ve seen among small businesses has led to more job openings,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “The only thing missing is qualified applicants.”

The seasonally adjusted average employment change per firm posted a gain of 0.06 workers. Fifty-two percent of small business owners reported hiring or trying to hire, but 44 percent said they found few or no qualified applicants. Job openings reached its highest level since December 2000, but more owners reported difficulty finding qualified workers to fill the positions. The number of owners who said that finding qualified workers was their “Single Most Important Business Problem” jumped two points to 17 percent.

“This is one of the tightest labor markets I have seen in the 43-year history of NFIB’s survey,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg.

Reports of increased compensation fell four points from January to 26 percent, but remains at a historically high level. The tight labor market is forcing small firms to raise compensation to attract and keep qualified workers.

“Employers are having to pay employees more to remain competitive in the labor market,” Dunkelberg said. “Overall though, the job numbers in the small business sector are solid, and owners are still showing that they are confident in the future of our economy.”

The NFIB Index of Small Business Optimism has skyrocketed since the election, a sign that small business owners anticipate major policy changes on taxes, regulations, and health care. Those are their three biggest problems, according to the quadrennial NFIB Problems and Priorities report.

“Small businesses are happy so far with the new management team in Washington,” said Duggan. “Confidence remains high, but if the administration and Congress fail to address some of the small business community’s biggest concerns, like tax reform and repealing and replacing Obamacare, we may see our optimism numbers change.”

– National Federation of Independent Business