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Small businesses raising compensation, still struggling to fill positions, NFIB survey says

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Business Practices
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Thirty-nine percent of small businesses were unable to fill positions in January, despite the same percentage of small businesses raising compensation, according to the results of a National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) survey

“Although consumer spending remains strong, small business owners cannot find enough workers to fill their open positions,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg in a press release. “Owners continue to raise compensation to retain and attract workers with the skills and willingness to do the job, but hiring remains a struggle in the tight labor market.”

More than half of all 1,287 survey respondents, or 55%, reported hiring or trying to hire in January, according to the survey results. Of those, 89% said they had few or no qualified applicants for the positions

The number of small businesses that reported raising compensation increased by three points from December to January with 39% saying they did in January, according to the results. Twenty-six percent of small businesses plan to raise compensation in the next three months. The number is down three points from December but remains historically high, a NFIB press release said. 

A recent report by Payscale predicts pay increases in the U.S. job market will meet or exceed inflation in 2024. The report also said auto body repairers were the fourth in-demand job in 2023. 

Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) and I-CAR survey released late last year found that, as a whole, collision technicians are notably happier and more likely to stay in their current position than their dealer service technician counterparts; however, they are still broadly hesitant to recommend the career to others, indicating room for improvement. Compensation and overall culture serve as leading drivers of both satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

While the SCRS/I-CAR survey results show that the more years of experience a technician has, the more they’re paid — over $100,000 by 20 years — about 39% of techs over 0-5 years of experience earn under $40,000.

“If you’re a new technician or if you’re an apprentice, or if you’re just in school and you hear from other people that in the first five years of being a technician, you’re going to earn $20,000 or less — maybe you’re going to earn $25,000 — and you’ve paid through school and you pay maybe $20,000 in tools to come to work for a new job, that math doesn’t really work out for them,” Meredith Collins, Ducker Carlisle Managing director said while presenting the survey results last year. “That’s a big hurdle for the industry in general, to work on. How do we get over that? How can we make the career more accessible for these new junior techs who are currently earning quite a bit less?”

The Payscale report offered tips on how to stay competitive when hiring for in-demand jobs such as listing pay range in job advertisements and updating workplace culture. 

“If the pay range isn’t posted in the job description, fewer candidates are likely to apply, and those that do may not be the talent you want the most,” the report said. “In addition, if the pay range for your job is out of sync with similar postings without explanation or justification, the position is less likely to receive applicants.”

Job descriptions in advertising should also be clear, the report said. Poorly written or vague descriptions could cause candidates to hesitate.

Employers should consider updating their workforce culture to attract more candidates, the report said.

“People have had enough of toxic, exploitative workplaces,” the report said. “Today, there are many avenues for researching company culture in advance of applying for a job, and job candidates are actively being advised to look up organizations online and review their reputation before accepting an offer.”


Photo courtesy of vIcky_81/iStock

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