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NFIB COVID-19 Survey: Staffing Shortage Causing Loss of Sales

July 26, 2021, 07:11 AM
Filed Under: Industry News

The NFIB Research Center released its latest COVID-19 survey on how the pandemic has affected small businesses. This is the 18th survey in the series and included in this edition is an update on SBA small business programs, sales levels, staffing shortage and more.

“Small businesses are making adjustments to their hiring practices to attract qualified applicants as well as adjusting business operations to compensate for the lack of staff,” said Holly Wade, Executive Director of NFIB’s Research Center. “Small businesses are still recovering from the pandemic but need to fill open positions in order to get back to full productivity.”

Key findings

Supply Chain Disruptions:

  • Thirty-two percent of owners reported supply chain disruptions are having a significant impact on their business.
  • Over half (54 percent) of owners reported that the supply chain disruption is having a worse impact on their small business than it was three months ago.
  • Over half (62 percent) of owners anticipate the supply chain disruptions impacting their business to continue for five or more months.

Staffing Shortage:

  • Twenty-two percent of small employers are currently experiencing a significant staffing shortage and another 18 percent are currently experiencing a moderate staffing shortage.
  • Of those small employers currently experiencing a staffing shortage, 19 percent are experiencing a significant loss of sales opportunities and 30 percent, a moderate loss of sales opportunities because of the shortage.
  • Over half (67 percent) of small business owners reported that their current staffing shortage being about the same as it was one month ago.

Job Applications:

  • About half (48 percent) of small employers are receiving fewer job applications now for their open positions than they did a month ago and 39 percent are receiving about the same.

Adjustments to Hiring Practices to Attract Employees:

  • When asked what adjustments (beyond normal hiring practices) small employers have taken to attract applicants, 63 percent have increased wages.
  • Thirteen percent have increased paid time off and another 13 percent have offered or enhanced hiring bonuses.
  • Fifteen percent of owners have offered or enhanced referral bonuses and another 15 percent have offered or enhanced health insurance benefits.

Adjustments in Business Operations Due to Staffing Shortage:

  • When asked what adjustments have been made in business operations to compensate for the staffing shortage, 41 percent reported offering more hours to part-time employees.
  • Sixty percent are offering overtime to full-time employees.
  • Seventy-nine percent of owners responded that owners are working more hours and 30 percent have adjusted business operation hours.
  • Twenty-nine percent of owners have introduced new technology to enhance productivity and 24 percent have reduced the variety of goods and services sold.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP):

  • About three-quarters (77 percent) of respondents reported that they received a PPP loan in 2020 and 86 percent of owners have submitted a PPP loan forgiveness application for their 2020 loan.
  • Forty-three percent of owners received a second PPP loan and only 20 percent applied for PPP loan forgiveness on their second PPP loan.

Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC):

  • Nine percent of small employers have claimed the ERTC for wages in 2020 and 7 percent of owners claimed the ERTC for wages in 2021.
  • Only 9 percent of owners are very familiar with the ERTC, 33 percent are somewhat familiar, and 58 percent of owners are not at all familiar with the ERTC.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL):

  • About a quarter (26 percent) of owners applied for and received an EIDL.

Family Leave Tax Credit (FFCRA):

  • 15 percent of respondents claimed the federal COVID-19 sick and family leave tax credit.

Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF):

  • Forty-one percent of owners in the restaurant industry applied for an RRF grant and of those who applied, 56 percent received grant funds.

Sales levels:

  • Sales levels are 50 percent or less than they were pre-crisis levels for 16 percent of small businesses with another 21 percent at sales levels of 51 percent – 75 percent of pre-crisis levels.
  • Thirty-six percent are back or nearly back to where they were with sales between 76 percent – 100 percent of pre-crisis levels.
  • About one-in-four (26 percent) are exceeding pre-crisis levels.

Business Conditions:

  • Twenty-two percent of owners report that conditions are back to normal now with another 27 percent of owners anticipate it taking until the second half of 2021 and 22 percent anticipate sometime in the first half of 2022 before economic conditions return to pre-crisis levels.
  • Seventeen percent of owners expect conditions not to fully improve until the second half of 2022 and 13 percent after 2023.

Business Operations:

  • About three-fourths (73 percent) of small business owners report they will be able to operate for more than a year in current economic conditions.
  • Twelve percent reported that they will only be able to continue business operations for six months or less under current economic conditions and another 15 percent for 7-12 months.

Fraudulent Unemployment Insurance Claims:

  • Twenty-nine percent of owners have had a fraudulent unemployment insurance claim filed against their business.


  • Almost one-in-five (19 percent) of small employers are asking employees if they are vaccinated.

This publication marks NFIB’s 18th Small Business COVID-19 survey assessing the health crisis impact on small business operations, economic conditions, and utilization of the targeted small business loan programs. The first series was published in early March 2020 with subsequent publications every 2-4 weeks, found here. The full survey of the 18th edition is available here.

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