A troubling piece of economic data was hidden in the monthly Small Business Economic Trends report.

This report summarizes a monthly survey of small business owners around the country. Like many reports, it includes a headline number followed by pages of data.

In the most recent report, the headline number showed that business owners are confident about their futures.

The Optimism Index is up 10% since its April low and better than levels attained prior to 2017.

Looking ahead, small business owners are optimistic about sales. Many have plans to expand and hire more employees. That’s all good news.

But they are also having trouble finding qualified applicants. You can see the recent trend in the chart below:

One-third of small business owners reported this problem. This is an improvement from the 38% reporting late last year. But it is still high given an unemployment rate of 8.4%.

In the most recent government data, there were 13.5 million potential workers unemployed and another 7.5 million working part-time but looking for full-time work. Yet qualified personnel are difficult to find.

What This Unemployment Trend Means

This data shows economic problems are not going away quickly. Businesses will continue to search for qualified employees even as they are flooded with applicants.

This is also consistent with anecdotal evidence that high-wage, highly-skilled employees are working remotely during the pandemic shutdowns. At the same time, low-wage employees’ hours are cut, or they are being furloughed.

Activists call the current scenario inequality. Economists point out the mismatch between required skills and the talent pool.

But the outcome is the same. Unemployment is likely to remain elevated for some time because many of the unemployed need to train for new jobs.

Michael Carr is a Chartered Market Technician for Banyan Hill Publishing and the Editor of One TradePeak Velocity Trader and Precision Profits. He teaches technical analysis and quantitative technical analysis at New York Institute of Finance. Mr. Carr is also the former editor of the CMT Association newsletter, Technically Speaking.

Follow him on Twitter @MichaelCarrGuru.