Small businesses looking to hire, having trouble finding qualified labor

COLUMBUS – According to the National Federation of Independent Business’ October jobs report, small businesses are looking to hire employees as they reported a historically high level of job openings this month.

Overall, 55% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in October, down 1 point from September.; 33% (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, down three points from September’s report.

“The small business labor market is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and the state and local regulations that further hindered small business operations,” said Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB chief economist. “The large increase in the number of unemployed has done little to help small businesses improve the quality of their applicants. Firms have more openings for skilled workers and are having trouble matching available workers with available jobs.”

Finding qualified employees remains a problem for small businesses with 87% of those trying to hire reporting few or no “qualified” applicants for the positions they were trying to fill; 28% of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions and 20% reported none.

“Before the pandemic, our members in Ohio ranked the lack of qualified candidates to fill open positions as their number one concern. While things dramatically changed through the summer as they singularly focused on survival, however, it did not take long for hiring to be back on entrepreneurs’ radar,” said Roger Geiger, executive director for NFIB in Ohio. “Small business owners are doing all they can to maintain a safe environment for all Ohioans, they just need to find enough employees to fill orders and serve those customers who are returning to support their enterprises.”

A net 23% of owners reported raising compensation (unchanged) and a net 18% plan to do so in the coming months, up two points; 8% of owners cited labor costs as their top business problem (down one point), but 21% said that labor quality was their top business concern, exceeding taxes, regulations and weak sales.

A total of 29% of owners reported opening for skilled workers (down three points) and 14% have job openings for unskilled labor (down two points); 44% of the job openings in the construction industry are for skilled workers while 58% of construction firms reported few or no qualified applicants for their job openings and 35% cited the shortage of qualified labor as their top business problem.