Small Businesses Continue to Struggle to Fill Open Positions

Date: May 06, 2021

NFIB’s monthly jobs report finds almost half of owners can’t fill open positions with qualified workers

For the third consecutive month, a record has been set. According to NFIB’s monthly jobs report for April, small business owners face the highest-ever readings of unfilled job openings since polling started in 1973. 

Small businesses damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic are now recovering in earnest, but they’re slowed by a major difficulty in finding qualified employees. Forty-four percent of owners reported that they could not fill open positions, double the 48-year average and two points higher than the record-setting 42% figure from March. 

Of the 59% of owners who are hiring (three points higher than March), almost all of them (92%) reported that they could find few or no qualified applicants for positions they were trying to fill. 

The issue has quickly grown to the largest problem facing small businesses. When asked about their largest concern, the most commonly cited concern that owners (24%) reported, was labor quality. 

“The tight labor market is the biggest concern for small businesses who are competing with various factors such as supplemental unemployment benefits, childcare and in-person school restrictions, and the virus,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg in a statement. “Many small business owners who are trying to hire are finding themselves unsuccessful and are having to delay the hiring or offer higher wages. Some owners are offering ‘show up’ bonuses for workers who agree to take the job and actually show up for work.” 

Businesses are trying to compensate for the lack of applicants with higher compensation; 31% have already done so and another 20% intend to raise compensation in the next three months. 

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