Washington, D.C. – The National Association of Manufacturers released its final Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey of the year, which showed optimism climbing from its low in the second quarter brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the fourth quarter, 74.2% of manufacturers responding to the survey felt positive about their own company’s outlook, up from 66% last quarter. While encouraging, a wide gap remains between today’s numbers and the 90% average in 2019.
After two quarters with weaker domestic demand topping the list of primary business challenges, the inability to attract and retain talent lead the pack once again in the fourth quarter with 62.4% of respondents listing it as their primary current business challenge. Prior to COVID-19, workforce challenges had been the main concern for 10 consecutive quarters. According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 525,000 job openings in manufacturing in October, a record high.
“There’s no question manufacturers have rebounded since the dramatic downturn in the spring, although a return to pre-pandemic optimism is still months away,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “We were looking at levels of anxiety not seen since the Great Recession. The recent relief bill passed in Congress must be signed immediately. This, coupled with the manufacturing and distribution of vaccines, will help ensure we don’t go backward. But it’s clear that to keep moving forward in 2021, we’ll need to see more bold action that fosters growth and competitiveness for manufacturers in America and caution against any efforts that may undermine the fragile progress made in the closing months of 2020.
“It will surprise many to know that manufacturers have more than half a million jobs to fill right now. We’re hiring, and that’s why workforce challenges are once again the top concern in our survey. The pandemic delayed our Creators Wanted Tour, but we will be launching virtual tour events in 2021 and hitting the road when it’s safe. And we look forward to working with the new Congress and new administration to help more Americans take advantage of the great career opportunities in modern manufacturing.”
Read the full survey results here.
The National Association of Manufacturers 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 12.2 million men and women, contributes $2.35 trillion to the U.S. economy annually and has the largest economic multiplier of any major sector and accounts for 62% 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 NAM or to follow us on Twitter and Facebook, please visit www.nam.org.