44% of Surveyed Small Businesses Can't Find Workers to Fill U.S. Jobs

A survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business shows a record high of small businesses are struggling to hire workers as the U.S. emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and the economy expands.

The 44% of businesses that reported being unable to find enough workers reflects a recent U.S. jobs report, released Tuesday, that shows a record high of 8.1 million openings across the country.

While demand for labor increased, wages and benefits saw modest rises, according to the Labor Department report. An April jobs report, released last week, was far weaker than expected, mostly because employers are unable to find the workers they need, even with the unemployment rate elevated at 6.1 percent.

Many Republicans in Congress have argued that the extra $300 in weekly federal unemployment aid is discouraging those out of work from seeking new jobs. In line with that criticism, several states are planning to cut off the extra funds well before the federal benefits end in September.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Small Businesses Desperate for Employees
A hiring sign offers a $500 bonus outside a McDonalds restaurant, in Cranberry Township, Butler County, Pa., Wednesday, May 5, 2021. U.S. employers posted a record number of available jobs in March, starkly illustrating the desperation of businesses to hire more people as the economy expands. Yet total job gains increased only modestly that month, according to a Labor Department report issued Tuesday, May 11. Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Job openings rose nearly 8%, to 8.1 million in March, the most on records dating back to December 2000, the government said. Yet overall hiring that month rose less than 4% to 6 million. The hiring number is a gross figure, while the government's jobs report — which said 770,000 jobs were added in March — uses a net total. Tuesday's report is known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS.

A separate survey of small businesses by the National Federation of Independent Business found that 44% had jobs they couldn't fill, also a record high.

The NFIB and JOLTS "add to evidence from the April employment report that labor shortages are widespread, pushing up prices and potentially acting as a brake on the recovery," said Michael Pearce, an economist at Capital Economics.

Job postings rose in most industries, including restaurants, bars and hotels; manufacturing; construction; and retail. They fell in health care and transportation and warehousing.

President Joe Biden, who included the extra money in his $1.9 trillion rescue package approved in March, disputed that the $300 supplemental payment is to blame Monday. But he also urged the Labor Department to work with states on renewing requirements that those receiving aid must search for jobs and take a position if offered. The job search rule was suspended during the pandemic, when many businesses were closed.

"Anyone collecting unemployment, who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits," Biden said.

Many people out of work are also reluctant to take jobs in service industries that require contact with the public for fear of contracting COVID-19. And many women aren't searching for jobs because they haven't found child care for children that are still at home taking online classes for at least part of the week.