Chief economist for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) William C. Dunkelberg, issued the following statement on the February job numbers, based on NFIB’s monthly economic survey that will be released on Tuesday, March 13, 2012. The survey was conducted in February and reflects the responses of 642 randomly-sampled NFIB members:
“February was a ‘break-even’ month for job creators on Main Street. For small employers, the net change in employment per firm (seasonally adjusted) was 0.04. While this is better than January’s net zero report, it’s certainly nothing to get excited about.
“Seasonally adjusted, 14 percent of the owners added an average of 2.9 workers per firm over the past few months, and 12 percent reduced employment an average of 3.5 workers per firm. The remaining 74 percent of owners made no net change in employment. While the percent of firms reducing employment was the 2nd lowest since 2007, the percent of those increasing employment was one of the highest reading since 2007. Firms have eased firings (initial claims for unemployment now around 350,000 per week) but haven’t resumed strong hiring, although job creation is improving from a low of 3 percent in 2009.
The net percent of owners planning to create new jobs unexpectedly fell 9 points to -4 percent (seasonally adjusted)—the fourth monthly decline and ominous news for the months to come. Unadjusted, 10 percent plan to increase employment and 8 percent plan reductions, meaning we can expect few new jobs from Main Street. From the start of the expansion (July 2009), job creation plans have lagged all other recovery periods, including the ‘jobless recovery’ in 2001.
“The ability to find qualified applicants for available jobs continues to be a problem for many small business owners. Forty-four percent of owners hired or tried to hire in the last three months and 33 percent of them reported few or no qualified applicants for the position.
“The percent of owners reporting hard to fill job openings fell 2 points to 16 percent, but still one of the best readings in years. It is a good predictor of the unemployment rate and anticipates little change in the current 8.3 percent reading unless there is a large reduction in those looking for work, exiting the labor force.
“Overall, the February NFIB survey anticipates a relatively weak job creation number with little change in the unemployment rate—very disappointing. With job openings and plans for job creation falling, prospects for continued job creation in the small business sector are not promising.”
NFIB is the nation’s leading small business association, with Founded in 1943 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, NFIB gives small and independent business owners a voice in shaping the public policy issues that affect their business. NFIB’s mission is to promote and protect the right of our members to own, operate and grow their businesses. More information is available at www.NFIB.com/newsroom.