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Half of U.S. Small-Business Owners Can’t Fill Positions

Dry cleaners are competing for labor in tight job market

WASHINGTON — Dry cleaners aren’t the only sector to feel the squeeze when it comes to finding and hiring new employees. According to a study conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), fully half of small-business owners reported job openings they could not fill.

This finding was a part of the NFIB’s monthly jobs report, and is a 48-year high. The historical average, the federation notes, hovers around 22%.

“Small-business employers are struggling to fill open positions and find qualified workers resulting in record high levels of owners raising compensation,” says NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Owners are raising compensation in an attempt to attract workers and these costs are being passed on to consumers through price hikes for goods and services, creating inflation pressures.”

The August report, which found that 50% of owners were having problems filling positions, is up five points from the previous month’s reading, the NFIB reports.

The study also found that 66% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in August. A seasonally adjusted net 32% of small-business owners are planning to create new jobs in the next few months, up five points, which is also a 48-year record high reading. The 48-year historical average, the NFIB reports, is 11%.

One way owners report trying to sweeten the pot is by offering more money. The NFIB study found that small-business owners reporting raising their compensation is up three points from July to 41% (seasonally adjusted) — again, a 48-year record high reading.

A net 26% of owners plan to raise compensation in the next three months, down one point from July’s record high reading. This compensation bump, however, is adding to owners’ headaches, with 10% reporting labor costs as their top business problem. Labor quality, another 28% reported, was their top business problem, up two points from July. Both statistics are record high readings.