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January 9, 2020 4:30 PM, EST

Smaller Share of US Small Businesses Unable to Fill Positions

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U.S. small businesses found it a little easier to fill jobs in December, consistent with a moderating, yet still-robust, labor market, National Federation of Independent Business data showed Jan. 9.

While finding qualified workers remains the most pressing issue for small-business owners, the share unable to fill job openings dropped to the lowest level since May 2018. The share has declined since matching a record in July.

Amid the lowest unemployment rate in a half century and the smallest pool of available workers in decades, companies have said finding — and hiring — qualified applicants has been difficult. While compensation plans eased last month, the share of small firms indicating they expect to boost worker pay remained close to the largest since 1989.

The overall job openings index fell 5 percentage points in December to 33% but differed across sectors. For instance, 61% of construction companies reported open positions, while a similar share cited few or no qualified applicants.

“The inability to assemble work teams is a key contributor to the comparably lackluster performance of the construction industry as evidenced by the December figures,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement. “Owners are raising compensation in order to attract more qualified applicants to fill open positions.”

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