Employers facing tough competition for talent in the labor market are increasingly turning to their own families to fill staffing needs, a recent Wells Fargo survey found.

Nearly half of 600 small-business owners polled nationwide by Gallup said they rely on unpaid help from family whenever they can't find or afford new employees, the San Francisco-based financial services firm said. Most turned to their spouses, the survey found.

More than 70 percent of respondents said it was getting more difficult to find qualified workers, up nine percent from a similar survey in March 2005. The biggest barrier cited for recruiting qualified personnel was the cost of employee benefits and insurance.

"Less than half -- 46 percent -- of small business owners offer medical, dental or other health benefits. This creates recruiting and operational challenges for businesses," Rebecca Macieira-Kaufmann, the executive vice president of the firm's small-business segment, said in a statement.