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Expand chart
Data: NFIB; Chart: Axios Visuals

Small business owners' optimism improved during April, even as many struggled to fill open positions.

Why it matters: Small businesses were hit hard with closures at the beginning of the pandemic, and an uneven recovery has proved that business owners still face a mountain of uncertainty.

The details: The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index increased 1.6 points in April, to 99.8, from a month before.

  • The index is up from a reading of 95 in January, but down from 104 in the fall.
  • The reading is about 2 points above the historical average.

The labor picture appears to be improving, but slowly. Firms surveyed hired an average of 0.31 workers over the past few months.

What they're saying: "Small business owners are seeing a growth in sales but are stunted by not having enough workers. Finding qualified employees remains the biggest challenge for small businesses and is slowing economic growth," says Bill Dunkelberg, the group's chief economist.

  • "Owners are raising compensation, offering bonuses and benefits to attract the right employees."

Yes, but: 44% (seasonally adjusted) of all owners reported being unable to fill job openings, up 2 percentage points from March.

  • About 8% cited labor costs as their top business problem, and 24% said that labor quality was their top problem.

Inflation watch: Businesses are raising prices at a rate not seen since the early 80s. A net 36% of small business owners are hiking prices, up 10 points over March (seasonally adjusted).

Go deeper

Consumer prices rise in July, but rate of inflation slows

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The core Consumer Price Index (CPI), which tracks prices of goods and services excluding food and energy, rose by 0.3% in July on a month-over-month basis.

Why it matters: The reading shows a slowdown in the rate at which inflation has been rising, after a 0.9% increase in June and 0.7% in May.

35 mins ago - Health

Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Nevada's Public Employees' Benefit Program Board voted Thursday to charge workers enrolled in public employee health insurance plans a surcharge of up to $55 a month if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

Why it matters: Nevada is the first state to announce such a move, per AP.

Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Sept. 29 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Pool via Getty Images

The state of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration on Thursday in an attempt to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Why it matters: The move comes one day after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin denied Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt's (R) request to exempt the state's National Guard from the mandate.