Manufacturing survey highlights optimism about U.S. economy

March 7, 2012

Roughly 60 percent of middle-market manufacturing and distribution executives are optimistic about the U.S. economy, according to the latest quarterly survey from McGladrey & Pullen, a tax and consulting firm. Industry Week reported that this finding outlines a 146 percent increase on the numbers from the fall 2011 survey.

According to the news outlet, a total of 59 percent of the executives said they were optimistic about the state of the U.S. economy, compared to 24 percent in the fall.

"Optimism about the world economy increased significantly, as well, with 27 percent indicating optimism this winter, compared to 17 percent in the fall," Karen Kurek, national manufacturing leader for McGladrey & Pullen, said in a statement. "These increases in optimism are good signs for 2012."

Industry Week reported that automotive and transportation executives were among the most optimistic about their companies, and industrial machinery and automotive executives were the most optimistic about the overall state of the economy.

The number of participants who characterized their companies as "thriving and growing" averaged 45 percent throughout 2011 – nearly twice the level of those who responded positively in 2010 (24 percent), showing the recovery may be well underway. Along with this positive business sentiment, the number of companies in decline is much lower than in 2007, 3 percent compared to 9 percent, according to the news source.

Though much of the resurgence in U.S. manufacturing has stemmed from large companies with household names, the survey deals with middle-market firms and smaller businesses.

One of the few concerns expressed by manufacturing executives was over the potential lack of qualified workers, according to Industry Week.

"The need for a skilled workforce could be one of the greatest impediments to growth for U.S. manufacturers and distributors, and makes it difficult to compete in the global market," Kurek said of the survey.

A recent letter in The Wall Street Journal noted that companies need to stop blaming the lack of a talent pool full of qualified workers and start realizing that they can hire people in relatable jobs that can be trained in specific operations at their business.

Software Advice reported that manufacturers need to shift their focus toward fostering a qualified workforce in terms of long-term business strategy as opposed to rushing people into positions without the proper training.