WASHINGTON (MNI) – The following statement was issued Thursday by
the National Federation of Independent Business’ Chief Economist William

“March came in like a lion on the job-front, but went out tempered
by future job growth indicators. Overall, the March survey anticipates
some strength in the job creation number with little change in the
unemployment rate. With job openings and plans for job creation both
falling, prospects for a surge in job creation in the small business
sector are still not promising.

“Building on February’s increased jobs numbers, March’s survey
gives us the best readings since January and February of 2011. The net
change in employment per firm (seasonally adjusted) was 0.22, double the
reading for February. Seasonally adjusted, 10 percent of surveyed owners
added an average of 3.1 workers per firm over the past few months, and
13 percent reduced employment an average of 2.1 workers per firm. The
remaining 77 percent of owners made no net change in employment.

“Forty-four (44) percent of owners hired or tried to hire in the
last three months and 32 percent reported few or no qualified applicants
for positions. Many small firms are struggling to find qualified
applicants for available jobs. And while firms have eased firings
(initial claims for unemployment now around 360,000 per week) they
haven’t resumed strong hiring.

“In search of an explanation as to why so few qualified workers
exist, we turn to the NFIB poll Job Vacancies (2007), in which owners
were asked about the reasons why so many applicants were judged to be
unqualified. Overall, owners characterized the pool of available workers
as containing few or no qualified workers. More specifically, 26 percent
of small employers reported applicants typically did not have the
required skills for the open position and 23 percent had a poor work
history which made them less attractive; nine percent of owners reported
that applicants had drug use problems and six percent reported having
applicants who could not establish their legal status. Sixteen (16)
percent of the owners reported that applicants typically had poor social
or people skills, 20 percent had inflated wage expectations, 17 percent
exhibited a poor attitude and 14 percent had a poor appearance. In
comparison, only 11 percent of the owners reported that deficient
English or math skills were typically a disqualifying characteristic.

“The percent of owners reporting hard to fill job openings fell 2
points to 15 percent, the second monthly decline since reaching 18
percent in January which was the highest reading since June 2008.
Hard-to-fill job openings are a strong predictor of the unemployment
rate and indicate that the rate is likely to rise, other things being
equal. This is reinforced by the fourth month of decline in the net
percent of owners planning to create new jobs. March’s net ‘0’ reading
was 4 points lower than February and 7 points lower than last November.
With a net ‘0’ percent planning to create new jobs, there is little
reason to be optimistic about job growth. Not seasonally adjusted, 15
percent plan to increase employment at their firm, five percent plan
reductions, good, but seasonally very low compared to normal levels.”

** MNI Washington Bureau: 202-371-2121 **