NAM Survey: Economic Outlook Diminishes in Fourth Quarter

Manufacturing Index Continues to Fall as Economic Headwinds Remain

Washington, D.C., December 8, 2015 – The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) released its fourth quarter 2015 Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey today, revealing a five-point drop in the NAM Manufacturing Outlook Index and that manufacturers continue to cite an unfavorable business climate as their top business challenge. A special question also revealed more than half still believe that the U.S. Federal Reserve should refrain from raising interest rates until 2016.

“Manufacturers have wrestled with economic headwinds for much of the year,” said NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray. “The stronger dollar, economic weaknesses in key export markets and reduced commodity prices have all played a role in holding manufacturing back year-to-date. Anxieties about the business climate contributed to manufacturers’ willingness to add new workers or make capital investments. This apprehension is reflected in the latest jobs numbers, which showed manufacturing employment continued to fall. The diminished outlook in the sector continues to illustrate the need for pro-growth policies, particularly those that help to make firms more globally competitive. These include tax policies that encourage more investment while also leveling the playing field with international peers.”

Key survey findings include the following:

  • Manufacturing sentiment is the lowest it’s been since the end of 2012, when firms were worried about the fiscal cliff. The NAM Manufacturing Outlook Index is 40.5, down from 51.8 in June. In addition, 59.6 percent of respondents are positive in their own company’s outlook (down from 67.3 percent in September and 91.2 percent one year ago).  
  •  International headwinds contribute to the decline in exports. Nearly 58 percent of respondents reported the recent slowdown in global growth has negatively impacted their company’s international sales or exports. Meanwhile, 16.9 percent said it has no impact, and only 4.4 percent reported improved export sales in the past 12 months.
  • Manufacturers have modest expectations about sales and output for 2016. The data are consistent with flat growth in manufacturing production over the next two quarters, according to an economic predictive model (see the following graph).

A full analysis of the survey is available here.  


The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is the largest manufacturing association in the United States, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Manufacturing employs more than 14 million men and women, contributes $2.09 trillion to the U.S. economy annually, has the largest economic impact of any major sector and accounts for more than three-quarters of private-sector research and development. The NAM is the powerful voice of the manufacturing community and the leading advocate for a policy agenda that helps manufacturers compete in the global economy and create jobs across the United States. For more information about the Manufacturers or to follow us on Shopfloor, Twitter and Facebook, please visit