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(The Center Square) – Many Oklahoma businesses are still reporting that they are having a difficult time finding enough workers.

"Our small-business members, especially in the retail and service sectors, tell us they're still having a tough time finding qualified applicants," Jerrod Shouse, National Federation of Independent Business Oklahoma State director, told The Center Square. "NFIB's August jobs report said a record 50% of owners nationwide reported job openings they couldn't fill. The 48-year historical average is just 22%."

A state Senate interim study found that access to affordable child care, the desire to work from home, and fear of catching COVID-19 in the workplace are playing a part in the worker shortage.

Shouse said many business owners have increased or plan to increase wages, but a record 28% said labor quality remains their number one challenge right now. The state's minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, the same as the federal minimum wage.

"The lack of qualified applicants is making it harder for Oklahoma businesses to recover from the COVID-19 slowdown," Shouse said. "A lot of businesses have no choice but to open late or close early, and some businesses have had to close their doors altogether on certain days because they can't find anyone to work."