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The No. 1 hiring challenge cited by US small-business owners

Minyoung Park
Small-business owners say it's hard to find qualified applicants to interview.

America’s small-business owners have gotten slightly more optimistic recently but still have a number of business worries, according to a new report from a small-business trade group.

High on their list of concerns is difficulty finding qualified applicants, according to that report from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB). Another recently released report, this one from Babson College, a private business school in Wellesley, Mass., found the No. 1 challenge business owners face when hiring qualified applicants is finding employees with the appropriate skills.

The Babson survey looked at a pool of 1,800 small business owners across the US, which included owners from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program and a comparative random sample of businesses, and found the so-called skills gap was their biggest hiring challenge.

Meanwhile, the NFIB report analyzed 700 responses from small-business owners, 48% of whom said they could find few or even no qualified applicants for the jobs they were trying to fill.

The skills gap is one of the paradoxes of post-recession America, as Jordyn Holman noted on “Marketplace” back in April. While businesses might have laid people off during the recession, now many say they can’t find any good people to hire. However, some economists say businesses can’t find workers with the right skills because they’re simply not offering enough money, as Jonathan House noted in the Wall Street Journal last year.

One small-business owner who spoke with Yahoo Finance said qualified applicants are out there but that small businesses don’t have the resources to recruit them.

“The qualified and talented candidates are out there but the noise makes it hard for us to find them and for them to find us,” Shawn Askinosie, founder & CEO of Askinosie Chocolate, a small chocolate manufacturer and one of Forbes’ America’s top small companies.

Askinosie added: “In other words, the battle for attention on most social media channels (including job boards) is so overwhelming that it's a significant challenge to be seen and heard by great candidates. The only way over the noise is money and we don't have the budget to turn up the volume on our search objectives."

In the Babson report, almost half of the respondents said hiring and keeping good employees is one of their top two growth challenges. That report also found that 72% of the respondents had difficulty hiring qualified employees in the last two years. Owners of companies that provide construction services and transportation cited the most difficulty hiring qualified workers.

It’s not surprising that construction businesses have such a hard time hiring skilled employees. Chris Terrill, the CEO of HomeAdvisor, recently wrote in Fortune that a “skills gap is hobbling construction.”

“Without skilled workers to replenish a diminishing skilled labor workforce, housing prices will continue to rise, housing inventories will continue to fall,” Terrill wrote, “and we’ll pay a growing premium for even the smallest home repairs (until there’s nobody left who knows how to complete them).”

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