Inside INdiana Business

Small business optimism grows, but staffing still a problem

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — Indiana’s small business owners appear to be growing more optimistic about the future as pandemic restrictions ease, but they are still struggling to find enough workers. The National Federation of Independent Business says its optimism index rose 2.4 points last month to a reading of 98.2.

The NFIB says March’s reading is the first return to the average historical reading since November, which indicates an improvement.

While the reading ticks higher, the organization says its members continue to struggle with staffing.

The NFIB says 42% of owners reported job openings that could not be filled, which is a record high reading. Twenty-four percent of owners say labor quality was their top business problem.

“While the increase in the Optimism Index is encouraging, the difficulty in finding qualified workers has the potential to bring the small business recovery to a screeching halt. How sad that after a year of incredible struggle and loss, small business could be left on the side of the road to economic recovery,” said Barbara Quandt, NFIB state director in Indiana.

Owners says they continue to have difficulty finding qualified workers to fill jobs as they compete with increased unemployment benefits and the pandemic keeping some workers out of the labor force.

“Small businesses usually lead the economy out of recession but if people don’t come back to work, small businesses cannot grow. And if the job creators can’t grow, the entire national economy will suffer,” said Quandt.

NFIB says a net 28% of owners reported raising compensation to attract workers. A net 17% plan to raise compensation in the next three months.

The index also signals small and independent business owners think it may be a good time to expand operations or make capital expenditures in the coming months.

According to the monthly survey, 59% of owners expect to make capital outlays in the next six months, up two points from February. Of those, 41% reported plans to spend on new equipment and 14% to improve or expand facilities.

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