U.S. Small-Business Job Creation Is at Record But Hiring Plans Drop

(Bloomberg) -- Small-business owners in the U.S. added the most jobs per firm in 45 years while a measure of hiring plans fell to a 10-month low, suggesting tight labor markets and wage costs are weighing on efforts to add employees even as companies boost payrolls.

Firms each added 0.52 workers last month, eclipsing the previous record of 0.51 in 1998, according to a report Thursday from the National Federation of Independent Business. A net 16 percent of owners said they plan to add jobs in the next three months, down from a record 26 percent in August, while the share planning compensation increases fell to a net 18 percent, the lowest since late 2017.

Twenty-two percent of owners said difficulty finding qualified workers was their most important business problem, three points below the record high. The NFIB said 37 percent of owners reported job openings they couldn’t fill, down from a 39 percent share in December that was the most in data since 1973.

“With the government shutdown behind us, the labor markets will get back to normal,” NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg said in a statement. “However, it appears that the shortage of workers will continue to restrain Main Street growth.”

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