U.S. manufacturers are feeling more optimistic about the future than at any time in the past 20 years, according to the latest Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey from the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Manufacturers.
Some 95.1% of respondents said they were either somewhat or very positive about their own company’s future — the highest rate since the survey was introduced in late 1997.
“In general, those completing this survey have been upbeat since the end of 2016, averaging 92.6% positive over the past six quarters,” NAM said in announcing the results. The survey of 568 manufacturers was conducted in late May and early June. Results were released June 20.
Large manufacturers (97.9%) are most bullish about the future, followed by medium-size producers (95.8%) and small manufacturers (89.5%).
Other findings from the rosy report:
- More than 66% of respondents anticipate hiring more workers in the coming year, with just 3.3% expecting employment to fall at their companies.
- More than 94% of companies expect wages to increase in the next 12 months, with nearly 47% predicting pay hikes of 3% or more.
- More than 61% of manufacturers forecast higher capital spending in the next year, with nearly a quarter (23.9%) expecting investment growth of 10% or more.
- More than 88% of respondents expect higher sales for their company in the coming year. Only about 3% worry about sales declines.
- More than 86% of manufacturers anticipate expanding production in the next 12 months, with more than 60% expecting output growth of 5% or more.
Even with all this optimism, manufacturers have worries, but their apprehensions have changed. In general, manufacturers aren’t as anxious about the regulatory climate or business environment as they were just two years ago. Now their biggest worries are being able to attract and retain a quality workforce (their top concern), the price of raw materials (their second biggest concern) and health care costs (their third biggest concern).