Small business optimism increases, but nearly half of business say they can’t fill openings

(The Center Square) – Small business optimism is on the rise, a new report reveals, but many businesses are struggling to find workers.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Small Business Optimism Index increased 1.6 points from March to 99.8 in April. While the index has increased 4.8 points over the past three months, more than four in 10 business owners said they have job openings they could not fill.

“Sadly 44% of business owners reported they can’t hire employees to work in their establishments,” NFIB New Jersey State Director Eileen Kean said in a news release. “NFIB is grateful Governor [Phil] Murphy had fully opened our restaurants, but now he needs to reevaluate New Jersey’s unemployment benefits to ensure the state has a successful summer.”

Nationally, businesses have complained they cannot find workers as many people are opting not to return to work because they make more money through a combination of state and federal unemployment. However, during a Monday news briefing, the governor said the state is not likely to reduce the $300 per week in supplemental unemployment payments.

“I think it’s probably a combination of a number of reasons” for the labor shortage, Murphy said, according to a transcript. “Is there some amount of this related to folks still getting their benefits? That is quite possible. I continue to believe the overwhelming amount of folks who are getting benefits are desperately in need of those benefits.

“When you look at the arrearages and the carnage that families economically have gone through, that may be some of it, but there’s an overwhelming amount of folks who desperately need those benefits,” Murphy added. “I think it’s probably a combination of that, lack of access to childcare, kids not all in school yet, a combination of a number of different factors. We have no plans to curtail the $300.”

Separately, state Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Boonton, and Assembly members Christopher DePhillips, R-Bergen, and Serena DiMaso, R-Holmdel, have introduced legislation to create a sales tax holiday for bars and many restaurants. The measure would create a four-month period when “qualifying establishments” could keep the sales taxes they collect on up to $70,000 in sales.

“New Jersey built a massive budget surplus during the pandemic and we have nearly $6.5 billion in federal aid to help with pandemic relief over the next year,” DePhillips said in a news release.

“We have the resources to help the restaurants and workers who have been hurt gravely by the governor’s overbearing executive orders over the past year,” DePhillips added. “A sales tax holiday would provide them critical relief and support the recovery of Main Streets across New Jersey.”

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