Small businesses in Illinois and across the country can’t find enough workers to fill open positions.
That’s the word from a recent national survey from the National Federation of Independent Business in which nearly 90-percent of respondents reported few or no qualified applicants for job openings.
The problem is worse in certain sectors, said Mark Grant, Illinois director for the NFIB.
“When you get some of our business owners who need tradespeople, jobs that are more intensive, labor-type things, those tend to be the hardest to fill,” he said. “I know even trucking companies are having a tough time finding people who can qualify to be drivers.”
Bob Goray is president of J.S. Goray, an exterior repair and restoration company based in suburban Chicago. The business has been around for 25 years and usually employs 10 to 15 people.
“No matter what we’ve tried – advertising, word of mouth – it’s very hard to find anyone who is available to work,” Goray said. “We’ve almost given up on trying to find skilled people. We bring people in who are unskilled and train them up, but even those are getting hard to find.”
The national NFIB survey reported 37-percent of small business owners raised overall compensation for workers in the last month, including for new hires. Grant said he’s seen that locally as well.
“They have been raising wages pretty consistently over the past several months to try to attract and keep the kind of qualified workers they need to have,” Grant said. “And they’re raising entry-level wages considerably, and of course that pushed up all wages when you do that. More experienced workers get raises as well.”
J.S. Goray is turning away potential business because the company simply can’t handle all the available work.
“Our business has grown quite a bit in the last two years and we’re really having a hard time keeping up with the demand due to the lack of employees,” Goray said. “We try to take care of existing customers and then we’re a little pickier about picking up new clients or even going out and bidding on work.”
Illinois’ unemployment rate stood at 3.8-percent in September. The state also recorded the lowest number of unemployment claims in the month of September in 45 years. Grant said he hasn’t seen a labor market like this in a long time.
“Maybe back around the early 1980s,” Grant said. “It’s cyclical. Our economy moves back and forth. This one has really sustained over a period of time that we haven’t seen in a few decades.”
Goray said the problem has been getting worse over the past decade, but has been especially tough as the economy continues to improve.
“At least in the construction trades, it’s very difficult right now,” Goray said.”I believe about 82-percent of construction companies are reporting a [labor] shortage. I’m not sure if no one wants to work outside anymore, but it’s pretty tough finding anyone.”
Reporting by Scot Bertram. Bertram is the general manager of Radio Free Hillsdale 101.7 FM, the student radio station at Hillsdale College and is also the co-host of “Political Beats” for National Review Online.