U.S. Small-Business Fighting for Staff Push Pay Gains to Record

(Bloomberg) -- A record share of small-business owners in the U.S. say they’re raising overall pay to attract workers and retain employees amid one of the tightest labor markets in decades.

A net 37 percent of firms report offering higher compensation in September, surpassing the previous record of 35 percent in May, according to the monthly jobs report from the National Federation of Independent Business released Thursday.

“There is extraordinary competition for workers in this historically tight labor market,” NFIB President Juanita Duggan said in a statement released with the data, citing tax cuts and regulatory overhauls as reasons for greater confidence among owners. “Small business owners are investing more in their employees to attract and keep qualified workers.”

The report follows a record reading last month for NFIB’s measure of owner optimism, which rose as companies planned the most capital spending since 2007 and hiring intentions hit an all-time high. That measure of hiring plans ticked down to 23 percent in September from 26 percent the prior month, the data released Thursday showed.

NFIB said the share of owners who report hiring or trying to hire fell 1 percentage point to 61 percent, while 87 percent of those companies seeking workers said they’re finding few or no qualified candidates. The industries with the most openings were construction, manufacturing, transportation, wholesale trades, and retail, according to the report.

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