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Small business owners report record high unfilled job openings in December

Written on Jan 24, 2019

A record 39% of small business owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report, released in early January. Sixty percent of owners reported hiring or trying to hire, but 90% of those reported few or no qualified applicants for the position. Twenty-three percent of owners cited the difficulty in finding qualified workers as their Single Most Important Business Problem.

“2018 was a banner year for small businesses in terms of job creation and compensation increases and as we begin the new year, small businesses are continuing their focus on attracting and retaining qualified employees for their businesses,” said NFIB’s President and CEO Juanita Duggan. “Finding qualified workers is their top problem going into 2019, exceeding taxes and regulations.”

In December, a net 35% reported increasing compensation and a net 24% reported planned increases in the next few months. Job creation remained solid with a net addition of 0.25 workers per firm, up from 0.19 in November and the best reading since July. Down one point from last month, 15% reported increasing employment an average of 3.0 workers per firm and 10% reported reducing employment an average of 2.9 workers per firm.

Although the labor markets are exceptionally tight, a seasonally-adjusted net 23% of owners plan to create jobs, up one point from November’s reading. Thirty-three percent have job openings for skilled workers and 12% have openings for unskilled labor. In December, 33% reported few qualified applicants for their open positions and 21% reported none.

“The labor force growth has become a constraint on the growth of the economy,” said NFIB’s Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “With more job openings than people looking for a job, the American worker can take advantage of wages rising and having several job alternatives to choose from.”

Job creation plans were the strongest in construction (net 27%) and professional services (38%).