Small business remains ‘upbeat’ about economy; Workforce needs remain a priority
The small business economic engine continues to run strong, according to the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) October Optimism Index.
The nationwide small business organization released the findings of its monthly index on Tuesday, with the index once again showing gains in that sector of the economy.
The leader of NFIB’s Alabama association expressed continued optimism among members.
“[S]mall business owners in Alabama generally are upbeat about the direction of the economy,” explained NFIB state director Rosemary Elebash. “Their primary concern at the moment is finding enough good job applicants.”
NFIB president and CEO Juanita Duggan, an Alabama native, credits sound policy for the gains despite some recent media fixation on potential negative trends.
“A continued focus on a recession by policymakers, talking heads, and the media clearly caused some consternation among small businesses in previous months, but after shifting their focus to other topics, it’s become clear that owners are not experiencing the predicted turmoil,” said Duggan. “Small business owners are continuing to create jobs, raise wages, and grow their businesses, thanks to tax cuts and deregulation, and nothing is stopping them except for finding qualified workers.”
As a result of small business continuing to hire and create new jobs, the index found that actual job creation in October exceeded that in September.
As Elebash noted, meeting the workforce needs of thriving small businesses remain both a challenge and a priority.
Twenty-five percent of the owners in the NFIB survey selected “finding qualified labor” as their top business problem, more than cited taxes or regulations.
“Labor shortages are impacting investment adversely – a new truck, or tractor, or crane is of no value if operators cannot be hired to operate them,” said NFIB chief economist William Dunkelberg.
At a small business panel hosted by Yellowhammer last month, Alabama’s workforce development needs drove much of the conversation.
“We have a significant shortage of qualified workers,” said Elebash, who participated in the panel discussion.
State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) is a member of a workforce development commission assembled by Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth.
Also a participant in Yellowhammer’s small business event, he outlined the fact that Alabama needs to implement a sound strategy to address its workforce needs.
“Not only do we need to develop our workforce for current jobs, we’ve got to get out front and understand where we are going,” advised Garrett.
For now, NFIB’s Dunkelberg remains bullish on an economy in which small business is prospering.
“The economy is doing well given the labor constraints it faces. Unemployment is very low, incomes are rising, and inflation is low. That’s a good economy,” Dunkelberg concluded.
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia