NFIB report finds small businesses are hiring — if they can find workers

The good news for small businesses is that they’re ready to hire … the bad news is, they’re having a hard time finding workers. Those are some of the findings of the NFIB’s latest jobs report, for April, which was released earlier this week.

The report from the National Federation of Independent Business found that a record 44% of small business owners said they have job openings they can’t fill — 22 percentage points higher than the historical average and two points higher than March’s 42% figure. The findings represent the third consecutive month of record unfilled job openings for small firms, NFIB added.

Eileen Kean. (File photo)

“The inability of business owners to hire staff is having a huge impact on the approaching summer tourist season,” NFIB New Jersey State Director Eileen Kean said in a prepared statement. “Main Street shops are breathing a sigh of relief because they can open, and are simultaneously taking a step backward because there are zero responses to help wanted ads.

“Suddenly, the promising summer season seems less hopeful.”

NFIB said 59% of small business owners were hiring — or trying to hire — in April, up three points from March’s figure. And they said that seems likely to continue, with a seasonally adjusted 21% planning to create new jobs in the next three months.

But 92% of those hiring or trying to hire said they had few or no “qualified” applicants for the month. Overall, 31% of owners reported few such applicants, and 23% reported none. About 37% have openings for skilled workers, while 20% report openings for unskilled labor, NFIB added.

In terms of efforts to bolster hiring, a seasonally adjusted 31% said they have raised compensation — a 12-month high level, and 20% plan to raise compensation in the next three months.

Understandably, labor quality was the top overall concern for business owners, at 24%.

“The tight labor market is the biggest concern for small businesses who are competing with various factors such as supplemental unemployment benefits, child care and in-person school restrictions, and the virus,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement. “Many small business owners who are trying to hire are finding themselves unsuccessful and are having to delay hiring or offer higher wages.”