Entrepreneurs plan to expand their businesses, but have trouble finding qualified employees, according to a monthly survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business.

The trade group's December survey found that 20% of the 800 businesses asked have plans to expand their work force. That is the highest percentage reported in 25 years.

But 16% of the businesses said finding qualified workers is their biggest problem, and 28% said they had at least one hard-to-fill job opening.

Only 2% of the businesses said the cost and availability of credit was their greatest concern. Inflation, which once garnered 42% of the votes, also got 2%.

Thirty-nine percent of the businesses surveyed plan major capital outlays in the next six months, up from 29% in 1992. The entrepreneurs plan to buy vehicles, new equipment, and office furniture.

Thirty-four percent of the businesses reported regular borrowing. The average short-term interest rate paid was 9.9%, down 10 basis points from November. Three percent said loans were easier to get, while 2% said they were harder to obtain.

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