Staggering New Record of Small Businesses Have Unfilled Positions

Date: September 13, 2021

NFIB’s monthly jobs report finds half of all owners can’t fill open positions

Once again, a worrying record has been set in 2021. According to NFIB’s monthly jobs report for August, small business owners face the highest-ever readings of unfilled job openings since polling started in 1973. A full 50% of all owners report unfilled positions, well over double the 48-year historical average of 22%. 

“Small employers are struggling to fill open positions and find qualified workers resulting in record high levels of owners raising compensation,” said 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.” 

Up five points from July’s reading, 66% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in August. Of the 66% of owners who are hiring, almost all of them (91%) reported that they could find few or no qualified applicants for positions they were trying to fill. 

Looking ahead, a seasonally adjusted net 32% of small business owners are planning to create new jobs in the next few months, up five points and a 48-year record high reading. By comparison, the 48-year historical average of owners who intend to create new jobs in the near future is 11%. 

Hiring qualified staff is firmly the largest problem facing the average small business. When polled on their largest individual business problem, 28% of owners answered labor quality, up two points from July and the highest number ever recorded. Labor costs was cited as the top concern by 10% of businesses, also a record-high reading. 

Businesses continue to compete for applicants by offering higher compensation; 41% have already done so (another 48-year high) and another 26% intend to raise compensation in the next three months (down one point from July’s all-time high number.) 

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