Survey: 88% of US Manufacturers are Optimistic about 2021

Most U.S. manufacturers see clear skies ahead, according to a new survey released by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), as cited by an report.

A majority, 87.6% of 450 respondents, of small, medium and large businesses reported feeling at least somewhat positive about their company’s outlook in the first quarter of 2021, compared to the dismal 33.9% optimism low in the second quarter of 2020. Optimistic responses broke down into 27.3% of respondents who said they were “very positive” responses and 60.22% who were only “somewhat positive.”

NAM CEO Jay Timmons noted the rising pace of vaccination and signs of an improving economy as reasons manufacturers may be hopeful for the future.

“Our industry is creating new jobs and investing in new projects, buoyed by signs that we may finally be getting COVID-19 under control,” said Timmons in a release.

For many respondents, the specter of COVID-19 as a pressure on income is largely behind them: 32.9% of respondents, a plurality, said revenue at their company returned to normal before the current quarter. A smaller group representing 20.6% of surveyed manufacturers expect things to be back to normal by the second half of the year instead.

Almost one half of respondents said they would increase production in the first quarter compared to last quarter, while 38% said they were looking to increase employment and 24.9% signaled increases in capital spending.

The survey also cast a light on the challenges facing manufacturers now. More than three-quarters of respondents listed increased raw material costs as a significant challenge for their business, and 65.8% chose “attracting and retaining a quality workforce” as a difficulty.

Slightly over half said rising health care costs and transportation and logistics costs were an issue, while just under half—48.7%–complained that supply chain challenges were causing issues with inventory management.

The report was NAM’s first Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey of 2021 and the first since the Biden administration took office.

Read the full Q1 2021 Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey results here.

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