Report: Labor Quality Top Issue for Small Businesses

Small businesses reporting labor quality as their top small business operating problem remains elevated at 21%, according to the National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) monthly jobs report. Nine percent of owners reported labor cost as their single most important problem, down one point from October.

“The small business economy is recovering, but owners continue to face ongoing labor troubles throughout the country,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Employment plans remain historically strong with 18% of owners planning to hire and create new jobs in the coming months, historically high but the lowest reading since February 2021.”

Forty-four percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, down two points from October. The share of owners with unfilled job openings far exceeds the 49-year historical average of 23%. The November reading is the lowest level since April 2021.

Small business owners’ plans to increase their number of employees remain elevated, with a seasonally adjusted net 18% planning to create new jobs in the next three months. However, November’s reading was the lowest level since February 2021, the NFIB said.

Overall, 59% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in November, down two points from October. Ninety-two percent of those hiring or trying to hire reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Thirty-one percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions and 23% reported none, according to the report.

Seasonally adjusted, a net 40% of owners reported raising compensation, down four points from October. A net 28% of owners plan to raise compensation in the next three months.

Thirty-seven percent of owners have openings for skilled workers and 16% have openings for unskilled labor.

Plans and intentions remain strong, but the execution is still not living up to them, with more firms reporting a reduction in employment. Eleven percent of owners reported employment gains in the recent months, but 15% reported declines.

Click here to view the full report.

A.J. Hecht

A.J. Hecht is the managing editor of THE SHOP and host of the In Gear with THE SHOP podcast. Have an idea, a tip, or a question you’d like to see answered? Contact A.J. at

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