Nearly half of small business owners were unable to fill job vacancies in October, according to the National Federation of Independent Business’s (NFIB) latest jobs report.
Its latest data shows the tight labor market continues to hurt independent businesses, with 43% unable to find talent for open positions last month. The percent of owners who named employee quality as their top operating problem remained higher than normal at 23%, the organization said.
NFIB’s latest findings underscore a challenge many collision repair facilities, and even collision repair educational centers, are facing.
“The labor market has not eased up much on Main Street,” said Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB’s chief economist . “Labor demand is still strong and small business owners are working hard to maintain competitive compensation to retain workers and fill critical open positions. Labor quality is still a top problem among small businesses.”
NFIB said 61% of owners reported hiring, or at least attempting to do so, last month. Among them, 90% said there were few–or even no–candidates qualified for the positions they were seeking to fill.
Ninety percent of those hiring or trying to hire reported few or no qualified applicants for the positions they were trying to fill. Thirty-one percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their open positions and 24% reported none.
“With labor demand remaining strong (as has consumer spending), firms must maintain competitive compensation to retain workers and hopefully to fill critical positions,” the report says. “As long as consumers spend, firms will find it profitable to hire. But hiring continues to be hindered by the lack of qualified workers. For now, the level of job openings suggests the labor market will continue to be firm, especially on Main Street.”
Among those hiring, 37% posted positions for skilled workers and another 18% were seeking unskilled labor.
The collision repair industry is already feeling the skilled worker shortage and is undertaking a number of initiatives to help attract and retain new talent. This includes, paid apprenticeships, partnerships with trades schools, and mentorship programs.
According to last year’s FenderBender Industry Survey, 34% of the 506 survey respondents in the U.S, said a shortage of qualified technicians is one of the numerous serious challenges facing the industry. At the time though, 72% said they expect their sales to only increase over the next five years.
The TechForce Foundation projects a shortage of more than 100,000 collision repair technicians by 2026 throughout the U.S.
Some OEMs are taking initiatives to get ahead of the skilled labor gap by attracting students while they’re still in high school.
Most recently, Toyota announced that it would work with local partners to launch the 4T Academy, a hands-on training program designed to place students with Toyota production jobs immediately after high school.
Toyota’s nearly $2 million initiative was announced last week during its Workforce Readiness Forum. The event was held for lawmakers, community leaders, and educators to address talent development and retention issues.
“The 4T Academy will provide our students the skills, experience and confidence they need to move into high-wage careers in manufacturing right here in their backyard,” said Erik Skaggs, president of Toyota Mississippi. “Imbedding innovative programs like 4T in our schools changes the landscape of workforce readiness and put students in the driver’s seat for their careers.”
Specific to the auto repair industry, the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) and I-CAR are among the organizations working to close the skilled talent gap through scholarships, donations, marketing campaigns and outreach efforts.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said last week that the “chronic worker shortage that will impact businesses for the foreseeable future” is the new reality.
“It really is the new normal,” Curtas Dubay, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s chief economist for economic policy, said in a podcast. “For the longest time, as long as the data goes back, we’ve always had more unemployed workers than we’ve had job openings. Now, in the aftermath of COVID, we’ve accelerated to the point, which we always knew was coming, where it’s now going to be the opposite. We are going to have more job openings than we have unemployed workers to fill them for the foreseeable future, probably for the rest of our lifetimes.
“I don’t expect for job openings to ever fall below the number of unemployed workers, and all comes back to our demographics. We have an aging society, and we’ve had it for a very long time… Labor force participation follows the track of the baby boomers. They are going to retire for the next maybe 15 more years, and so that’s going to continue to reduce this share of the population that is working. It’s not all that complicated of a story. Our population is aging, older people work less, and our succeeding generations are just not big enough to make up the slack.”
Featured photo courtesy of RichLegg/iStock