US firms face hiring difficulties, business survey says

The logo for the Ford Motor Company appears above a post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

A growing share of US employers are struggling to hire new workers and some have raised wages as a result, according to a survey released Monday.

The National Association of Business Economists said its quarterly survey showed members were a little less sanguine about the prospects for strong economic expansion over the next year, although most still expect sustained quarterly growth of better than two percent

With unemployment already very low, anecdotal reports indicate employers around the country are struggling to fill open positions and have been obliged to boost compensation to lure in new candidates.

But official figures show only sluggish wage growth and weak inflation — with average hourly earnings disappointingly up less than 0.2 percent in June — something that has puzzled policymakers at the Federal Reserve, although it has not yet prompted them to alter their course of gradual interest rate increases.

“Slightly over one third of panelists reports that their firms have experienced some difficulty in hiring,” NABE survey chair Emily Kolinski said in a statement.

The survey of 101 NABE members showed rising sales, profits, hiring and capital spending.

However, “Pricing power — or lack of it — and labour costs are generating some headwinds for a significant number of firms,” she said.

The share of firms reporting increased wages rose eight points from April to 47 percent. But expectations that wages will keep rising over the next three months rose only three points, also to 47 percent.

Half of firms reported gains in sales, up from 45 percent in April.

About 60 percent of respondents said they expected GDP to expand by more than two percent over the next four quarters, but the share foreseeing growth under two percent rose eight points to 38 percent.

Kolinski, chief economist at Ford Motor Company, said firms have not changed course on hiring and investment decisions based on any hope of stimulus from the Trump administration, which has vowed to slash taxes and regulation.

And just 12 percent said it was likely they would revisit long-term strategies in light of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris Climate accord, while 50 percent said this was unlikely.