BOSTON — Employers are still struggling to find workers amid a prolonged hiring crunch, according to a new report by a national business group.

The survey of employers by the National Federation of Independent Businesses found that nearly half of all businesses couldn’t hire enough workers in February, while more than 23% of available positions went unfilled — a 48-year high.

At least 48% of employers reported job openings they couldn’t fill last month, up only one point from January’s numbers, the group said. Ninety-three percent of business owners hiring or trying to hire reported few or no qualified applicants.

Business leaders in Massachusetts say the latest data shows the labor shortage is continuing to drag on the state’s economic recovery.

“Every time small businesses clear a pandemic-related hurdle new challenges are presented,” said Chris Carlozzi, the group’s state director in Massachusetts. “Whether it be labor shortages, supply chain disruptions or inflation, employers in Massachusetts still face major barriers on the path to economic recovery.”

Carlozzi called on Beacon Hill policymakers to pursue economic recovery policies that will “facilitate job growth like cutting taxes, helping to shore up the unemployment trust fund, and avoiding costly new labor mandates.”

The survey found a number of businesses are increasing compensation and effort to attract more employees. About 45% of employers who responded to the survey increased pay in February, while an additional 26% are planning to increase compensation in coming months.

Meanwhile, a report by another business group notes that the labor crunch remains a persistent problem even as the state’s economy rebounds.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts’ monthly survey of businesses found that employers are confident about prospects for recovery this year, but noted that inflation and supply-chain issues continue to impact the labor market.

AIM’s Business Confidence Index, which is based on surveys of 140 businesses, edged up 0.8 points to 56.7 in February, the group said in a report.

John Regan, AIM’s president and CEO, said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will likely exacerbate supply shortages and price increases in the next several months.

“The primary economic consequence of the crisis will be additional upward pressure on an inflation rate that is already the highest in 40 years,” Regan said in a statement.

The situation remains similar north of Boston, where the business confidence index for the region was gauged at 54.1 in February — down from 56.6 a month before.

Karen Andreas, president and CEO of the North Shore Chamber, said many business owners are concerned about recruiting and retaining employees, as well as the need for reform of the state’s unemployment system.

She said the conflict in Ukraine will “put additional upward pressure” on inflation, which rose to 7.5% nationally in January.

“Disruptions to the oil markets and uncertainty about grain supplies will stress economies already struggling to keep up with demand,” Andreas said in a statement.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at

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