With unemployment at its lowest level since 1969, job applicants may have the upper hand when they walk into an interview, and that goes for job offers on Main Street as well as from corporate human resources.
It is not just the Amazons of the world feeling the pressure to offer employees more. Small businesses across the United States are upping the ante in the attempt to get the candidates they want. Will they succeed? They haven't been able to for months, and the answer to this question is important to the domestic economy.
In the new CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey for the fourth quarter, business owners desperate to fill positions are shifting resources to entice potential employees, including taking a financial hit in order to staff up. After all, nearly 1 in 5 small-business owners (18 percent) have open positions they have been unable to fill for at least three months, ticking up two percentage points from last quarter.
More than half of small-business owners in the survey (56 percent) say they've offered to pay higher wages in order to attract qualified workers to fill open positions. Another 31 percent say they've offered to pay for training or additional education to help underqualified candidates meet job requirements. Twelve percent have offered to help candidates pay off student loans.
The shift toward greater worker compensation is more palatable because, by and large, Main Street is still doing steady business. More than half of small-business owners responding to the survey say current conditions for their businesses are "good." Small-business owners who say things are "good," "middling" or "bad" are nearly equally likely to say they're having trouble hiring workers, indicating that the problem is widespread.