By Michelle Graff
Nashville, Tenn.--The number of small business owners who can’t find qualified people to fill open positions has reached its highest level since before the recession, a survey by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) shows. 

The NFIB’s latest Small Business Economic Trends Report, which is created by surveying NFIB members, showed that 29 percent of survey-takers reported having hard-to-fill job openings in February, a 3-point increase over January and the highest percentage recorded in nine years. 

In addition, 14 percent cited the availability of qualified labor as their No. 1 business problem, the highest since September 2007. 

“The job openings figure is one of the highest in 40 years,” the NFIB states in the report, “and this suggests that labor markets are tightening and that there will be more pressure on compensation in the coming months,” meaning retailers will have to pay more to get good people. 

Attracting, and retaining, qualified workers isn’t just a problem for small businesses either; retail giant Walmart announced it was raising wages last month and some speculate part of the reason the retail giant decided to pay more was to stay competitive and attract quality workers.

The NFIB’s Research Foundation collects data on economic trends in small business by surveying its members each month. It then releases its Small Business Economic Trends Report on the second Tuesday of each month. 

This survey was conducted in February, and includes responses from 716 small business owners.

Other findings in the report include:
--The percentage of survey-takers who said now was a good time to expand remained stagnant month-over-month at 13 percent;
--The net percentage of business owners reporting higher nominal sales in the past three months as compared with the three months prior fell 3 points in February, on the heels of a 5-point slide in January;
--The percentage of business owners planning capital outlays in the next three to six months was unchanged at 26 percent;
--A net 19 percent of survey-takers said they plan to raise prices, unchanged from the previous month. “Reports of actual price hikes and early indicators of first quarter economic activity suggest that markets will not yet support higher prices,” the report states; and
--Only 3 percent of those who responded to the NFIB’s survey reported that finding financing was their top business problem, up 1 point from the previous month. 

Read the entire report at

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