October 28, 2021


WASHINGTON, D.C. — Small businesses that are actively hiring are finding it more difficult now than in June to find workers to fill open positions, according to a poll on the state of the workforce taken September 30 – October 7, 2021, and released today by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife. The poll reveals small business owners’ current attitudes toward hiring, vaccine requirements, and the national economic outlook.

Nearly half (49%) of small businesses that are actively hiring say it is hard to find candidates with the skills they need, a significant jump from only 34% saying so in June. Small businesses that are actively hiring are also finding it harder to fill open positions (44% vs. 34% in June) and compete for talent with larger businesses in their area (42% vs. 26% in June).

The small business data comes just weeks after the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported there were 10.4 million job openings across the country in August, following a record high 10.9 million in July.

Although more small businesses say that they are likely to hire new employees this year (58% vs. 48% in June), there was little change in the percentage of small businesses that have actually initiated the hiring process (36% vs. 33% in June).

“Small businesses are ready to hire, ready to welcome back customers, and support vaccinations to keep customers and employees safe,” said Tom Sullivan, vice president of small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “However, the worker shortage crisis threatens the economic recovery of Main Streets across the country, and many small business owners have simply given up on finding new staff. Congress needs to focus on making it easier for small businesses to hire the people they need to grow, compete, and thrive.”

Most small businesses support vaccine requirements

A majority (64%) of small business owners support businesses in their area requiring vaccines for their employees—with both the Biden administration’s proposed mandate and business-initiated mandates receiving equal support. Similarly, 60% support businesses in their area requiring proof of vaccination from their customers.

The support aligns with a recent Gallup poll showing 58% of Americans favor the administration’s vaccine mandates for companies with 100 or more employees, or weekly testing.

More small business owners are implementing vaccine requirements for customers than in June, before the COVID-19 Delta variant worsened the pandemic in the U.S. About half (51%) are likely to or already require proof of COVID vaccination from customers, up from 38%. Three in five (61%) are likely to or already require staff to be vaccinated.

Although most small business owners (56%) see a return to a normal small business climate as distant (6 months – 1 year away), businesses with less than half of employees vaccinated are more likely to say the climate will never return to normal (26% vs. 8% in companies with more than half of employees vaccinated).

Meanwhile, 16% of small businesses with at least half of their workforce vaccinated expect a return to normal within three months, compared to only 6% of small businesses with low staff vaccination rates.

“While it is encouraging to see more optimism around hiring plans in the latest poll, small businesses are still facing a challenging, ever-changing environment, especially when it comes to recruiting workers,” said Cynthia Smith, senior vice president, Regional Business at MetLife. “In a competitive labor market, it is more important than ever for small businesses to have the tools and resources needed to attract and retain top talent.”

Additional Findings:

  • Retailers show the strongest levels of support for vaccine requirements for employees (70%), and proof of vaccination for customers (68%).
  • 10% of small businesses say they already require customers to show vaccine cards, up from just 3% that said they were doing this in June.
  • For employees unwilling to comply with vaccine or testing requirements, 43% of small businesses report they are likely to replace them, but few (10%) say they have already done so.
  • Small business decision makers are concerned about the health (65%) and future (64%) of their business, while half (52%) say they are concerned about their staffing.

Learn how the U.S. Chamber and U.S. Chamber Foundation’s America Works initiative is helping companies and our country address the workforce shortage at

About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce  

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization representing companies of all sizes across every sector of the economy. Our members range from the small businesses and local chambers of commerce that line the Main Streets of America to leading industry associations and large corporations.  

They all share one thing: They count on the U.S. Chamber to be their voice in Washington, across the country, and around the world. For more than 100 years, we have advocated for pro-business policies that help businesses create jobs and grow our economy.  

About MetLife 

MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), through its subsidiaries and affiliates ("MetLife"), is one of the world's leading financial services companies, providing insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management to help its individual and institutional customers navigate their changing world. Founded in 1868, MetLife has operations in more than 40 markets globally and holds leading positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit