Manufacturing survey shows confidence at an all-time high

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The National Association of Manufacturers says confidence among U.S. manufacturers is at an all-time high.

In the latest NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, which was released in conjunction with a listening session at the White House with President Donald Trump, 93.3 percent of manufacturers were somewhat or very positive about their own company’s outlook.

That’s up from 56.6 percent a year ago and 77.8 percent in December and represents a new all-time high in the survey’s 20-year history.

As a result, the NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Index also soared to a new high, up from 53.3 in December to 63.7 in the first-quarter report, which was released Friday.

It was the second straight quarter in which the outlook exceeded the historical average, which would equate to 50 in the index, and there were strong gains in confidence for companies of all sizes.

Respondents are predicting sales growth of 4.9 percent, on average, during the next 12 months, the fastest pace since the second quarter of 2011 and a healthy rebound from the 0.4 percent gain that was forecast at this time last year.

The production data were similar, with 4.8 percent growth in the coming year, up from 3 percent in the prior survey.

Companies are less cautious about hiring and capital spending than they have been in prior quarters, the NAM reported.

Business leaders in the sector are predicting 2.3 percent and 2.1 percent growth in full-time employment and capital investments, respectively, in this survey. Both figures were negative in the first quarter of 2016.

In terms of top challenges, an unfavorable business climate fell to third place on the list, with rising health insurance costs and the ability to attract and retain a quality workforce ranking just above it as concerns.

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