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Jobs Report: Labor Quality Still Major Concern for Small Business

Nearly half of owners report job openings they cannot fill

WASHINGTON — The percentage of small business owners reporting labor quality as their top small business operating problem remains elevated at 20%, according to the December monthly jobs report of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). Labor costs reported as the single most important problem for business owners increased one point to 9%, four points below the highest reading of 13% reached in December 2021.

“The tight labor market has been a consistent concern for small business owners throughout 2023,” says NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “The level of job openings suggests a solid labor market will continue on Main Street for 2024, as owners raise compensation to attract qualified workers and consumers spend.”

The report found that 40% (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, unchanged from November. Owners’ plans to fill open positions remain elevated, with a seasonally adjusted net 16% planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down two points from November and 16 points below its record-high reading of 32 reached in August 2021.

Overall, 55% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in December, up one point from November. Of those hiring or trying to hire, 89% of owners reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Twenty-eight percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions and 21% reported none.

Seasonally adjusted, a net 36% of owners reported raising compensation, unchanged for the fifth consecutive month. A net 29% of owners plan to raise compensation in the next three months, down one point from November.

Labor Quality Still Major Concern for Small Business

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