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Small-Business Labor Shortage Worsens in September

Laundromats, wash-dry-fold competing for workers in tight job market

WASHINGTON — Laundry businesses aren’t the only sector to feel the squeeze when it comes to finding and hiring new employees. According to a study conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), a record 51% of small-business owners reported job openings they could not fill.

This finding was a part of the NFIB’s September monthly jobs report, and the number continues to exceed the 48-year historical average of 22%.

“More and more small-business owners are struggling to find workers for their open positions,” says NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “For most small employers, labor costs are the largest operating outlay and owners will be compelled to pass those costs on to their customers by raising prices.”

A net 42% (seasonally adjusted) of owners reported raising compensation, up one point from August and a 48-year record-high reading. A net 30% plan to raise compensation in the next three months, up four points from August’s record-high reading.

Overall, 67% of small employers reported hiring or trying to hire in September, up one point from August. Small-business owners’ plans to fill open positions remain at record-high levels, with a seasonally adjusted net 26% planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down six points from August. That’s the fifth-highest reading in the survey’s 48-year history and well above the historical average reading of a net 11%.

Ninety-two percent of those employers hiring or trying to hire reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Thirty-four percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions, and 28% reported none.

Twelve percent of owners cited labor costs as their top business problem, up two points, and 28% said that labor quality was their top business problem, unchanged from August. Both are record highs.