Optimism among U.S. manufacturers remains high despite continued workforce concerns brought on by the tight labor market, rising health care costs and the state of the nation’s infrastructure, according to a quarterly survey by the industry’s top trade group released on Tuesday.
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The report by the National Association of Manufacturers comes as fears of a potential economic recession in 2019 subside among some experts. Nearly 90 percent of manufacturers have a positive outlook for their business, up from 69 percent in 2016 but down year-over-year, according to NAM’s recent survey of 14,000 U.S. companies. It is the ninth straight quarter of record optisism, the group says.
“Manufacturing in the United States is on the rise, and manufacturers are confident about the future,” said CEO Jay Timmons. “We have to get serious about infrastructure investment and attracting, recruiting and training our people for the high-tech, high-paying modern manufacturing jobs.”
Alongside the study, Vice President Mike Pence is also slated to address the group’s board of directors in Scottsdale, Arizona on Tuesday. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who was recently nominated to join Boeing’s board of directors, spoke at the Spring retreat on Monday.
Over 77 percent of respondents cited the U.S. infrastructure system as a top concern, while 72 percent also listed attracting and keeping a talented workforce. Nearly 57 percent of respondents said rising health care costs was a primary challenge and roughly 53 percent also listed global trade tensions.
Sales are expected to grow 4.4 percent in the next 12 months – up slightly from the 2018 fourth quarter survey – while full-time employment is slated to rise 2.1 percent and wages are poised to increase 2.3 percent in 2019.
In the same time frame, respondents said prices could rise as much as 2.4 percent as raw material costs increase 3.3 percent – a decrease from the December report.
While the industry says it has benefited from the GOP-led tax law and deregulatory efforts by the White House, manufacturers of all stripes are suffering from added costs due to President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, as well as the duties on $250 billion in Chinese imports.