Survey: Hiring Plans Weaken in December as Labor Shortages Challenge Small Businesses

Oklahoma City — Small business owners’ plans to add positions remain elevated, with a seasonally adjusted net of 17% planning to create new jobs in the next three months, down one point from November and 15 points below its record high reading of 32% reached in August 2021.

“Small business owners remain frustrated with the current labor situation,” said National Federation of Independent Business Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg.

“The trend in planned hiring eased slightly as labor quality and labor cost are two top issues for owners. Owners raised compensation again in December to attract and retain employees.”

State-specific data is unavailable, but NFIB State Director Jerrod Shouse warned how the labor shortage continues to harm Main Street businesses.

“With an unemployment rate almost as high as the national average, our small business owners continue to struggle to fill open positions and keep their doors open,” Shouse said.

“As lawmakers prepare to gavel into session next month, Main Street will be looking to the state legislature to bolster our skilled workforce and stabilize our economic recovery.”

Forty-one percent (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported job openings they could not fill in the current period, down three points from November.

The share of owners with unfilled job openings continues to exceed the 49-year historical average of 23% but 10 points below its record high of 51 percent last reached in July.

Overall, 55% of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in December, down four points from November. Ninety-three percent of those hiring or trying to hire reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Twenty-six percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions and 25% reported none.

The percentage of small business owners reporting labor quality as their top small business operating problem remains elevated at 23%, up two points from November. Labor costs reported as the single most important problem to business owners decreased one point to 8%.

Seasonally adjusted, a net 44% of owners reported raising compensation, up four points from November. A net 27% of owners plan to raise compensation in the next three months.

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

Note: For nearly 80 years, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) has been the voice of small business, advocating on behalf of America’s small and independent business owners, both in Washington, D.C. and in all 50 state capitals. NFIB is nonprofit, nonpartisan, and member driven. Since our founding in 1943, NFIB has been exclusively dedicated to small and independent businesses and remains so today. For more information, please visit