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Small biz growth streak suffers a reversal

Small business’s five-month hiring streak ended in May. Small employers reported an average gain of -0.04 workers per firm last month, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses. In April, small businesses saw an average increase of 0.14 employees per firm, which was the fifth consecutive month of growth reported by NFIB.

NFIB’s chief economist, William Dunkelberg, says small business growth “can’t seem to maintain any steam,” and he points to Washington for the reasons why.

"Owners are still quite pessimistic about economic recovery, though far less so than six months ago,” Dunkelberg says in a statement previewing NFIB’s May jobs survey—to be published in full on June 11. “It will take a marked improvement in sales to convince them to hire more workers and prospects for that are not good."

NFIB’s survey reveals that most small employers made no staff-size changes over the past few months, 12 percent cut an average of 3 workers and only 9 percent added an average of 2.6 workers per firm.

On the other hand, employers that do have jobs open are finding it increasingly hard to find qualified workers. NFIB data indicates that 47 percent of owners hired or tried to hire in the last three months and a significant majority of them found few or no qualified applicants. Dunkelberg reports that nearly one in five of all business owners had job openings they could not fill in the current period.

Looking forward, 16 percent of the 715 NFIB survey respondents plan to increase total employment. That’s a decline of 2 points since NFIB’s last survey. And, up from 4 percent last period, 5 percent of owners now plan staff reductions. “Not a sunny outlook for the summer months,” says Dunkelberg.

Do you plan to hire or shrink staff this summer? Is uncertainty about the economic recovery holding up your plans? Tell us in the comments.

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