Association: Q4 manufacturer optimism plummets

Optimism among the nation’s manufacturers dropped to its lowest reading in four years as many executives worry about the sluggish economy, the pending fiscal cliff and a slowing global sales market, according to a recent survey from the National Association of Manufacturers and Industry Week magazine.

A slim majority – just 51.8 percent – of responding manufacturers characterized the business outlook for 2013 as “somewhat positive” or “very positive” in the NAM’s latest survey. That percent is down from 69.2 percent in the third quarter and from 88.7 percent at the beginning of the year, according to the survey.
Eighty-four percent of respondents said political uncertainties such as the fiscal cliff are the main driver for the lack of optimism in the coming year, according to the survey.
Here are other key worries of manufactures and what percent are concerned about it:
• Rising health care costs, 79 percent.
• Unfavorable climate, such as taxes and regulation, 74.7 percent.
• Weak domestic sales and economy, 67.6 percent.
• Rising energy and raw material costs, 39.6 percent.
• Finding and retaining qualified workers, 38.7 percent
• Weak global sales and exports, 33.9 percent.
• Access to capital and financing, 8.4 percent.
Manufacturers said they expect sales to grow at just 1 percent and lack of confidence will reduce investment and hiring, according to the survey. Slightly more than 36 percent of respondents said they have reduced employment or stopped hiring due to fiscal cliff concerns.
The NAM survey results contrast some with today’s report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics that the national economy added 146,000 nonfarm jobs in November and the unemployment rate declined to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008.
Manufacturing, however, lost 7,000 jobs in November, according to BLS. The number on a national scale is statistically insignificant and means sector employment was largely unchanged, according to BLS.

Jim T. Ryan

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