Small Businesses Struggling to Find Qualified Workers, Adding to October Growth Problem

Date: October 31, 2019

Washington, D.C. (Oct. 31, 2019) – Small businesses across the country are feeling the continued effects of the worker shortage, as it remained their top problem in October. Owners added an average addition of 0.12 workers per firm, generally unchanged from September, according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report. Although job creation has remained steady, net creation has faded since February.

“The small business economy continues at a solid pace in spite of a historic labor shortage that has slowed growth in critical sectors,” said NFIB’s President & CEO Juanita D. Duggan. “Small businesses are continuing to hire at record levels but would be doing even more if they could find qualified workers. This has consistently been the biggest issue for small businesses for months, as they’re doing everything they can to keep their businesses moving and growing.”

Owners are attempting to fill positions by raising compensation, with 30% of owners reporting raising compensation in October and 22% plan to do so in the coming months.

Sixty percent of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in October, but 88% of those reported few or no qualified applicants for their open positions. Sixty-five percent of construction firms reported few or no qualified applications, with 58% in manufacturing reporting the same. Growth in these industries is constrained due to the shortage of workers.

A seasonally adjusted net 18% of owners are planning to create new jobs. Not seasonally adjusted, 18% plan to increase total employment at their firm and 6% plan reductions. In construction, 25% of owners are planning to increase their employment and 7% are planning reductions.

Thirty-four percent of owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, a historically high figure. Fifty-two percent had openings in both construction and transportation, and 43% in manufacturing.

“The economy is doing well given the labor constraints it’s facing,” said NFIB’s Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Unemployment is very low, incomes are rising, and inflation is low – that’s a good economy.”

Up from last month, 32% of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions and 21% reported none. Reports of few or no qualified applicants were the highest in construction (65%), transportation (64%), and manufacturing (58%).

Other findings include:

  • Thirty percent have openings for skilled workers, and 13% have openings for unskilled labor.
  • Eleven percent reported increasing employment an average of 2.8 workers per firm and 7% reported reducing employment an average of 3.6 workers per firm.

Click here to view the entire NFIB Jobs Report. For more information about NFIB, please visit   


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