In the latest Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey from the National Association of Manufactures (NAM), 92.5 percent of participants reported being optimistic about their current state of business. The rolling four-quarter average for overall industry optimism increased to a record 93.9 percent—keeping the year on track to reach the highest annual average in the survey’s 20-year history. Many respondents credit domestic tax reform and regulatory relief, in addition to general improvements in the global economy, as the source of such overwhelming positivity.

The survey found that job growth also remains robust with more than 58 percent of manufacturers planning to hire new employees over the next year and 23.1 percent predicting employment growth of 5 percent or more. However, 73.2 percent of manufacturers cite the inability to attract and retain a quality workforce as their primary business challenge. New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Opening and Labor Turnover Survey echoes these concerns with their latest count of 488,000 open manufacturing jobs in the United States (as reported October 16, 2018).NAM Q3 Survey - Employment

How can companies plan for tomorrow’s growth when they face employment shortages today? NAM leadership wants to focus the industry on training programs that attract new talent, but also strengthen existing workers to address the widening skills gap.

“Tax reform and regulatory relief have spurred strong manufacturing growth, and manufacturers are now investing in our communities, hiring more Americans and raising wages and benefits. Amid all this good news, it is no surprise that manufacturers in 2018 are more optimistic than they have ever been in the history of our survey. Still, with the workforce crisis being manufacturers’ most widely cited challenge, the NAM and our Manufacturing Institute are tackling the issue head on—launching the Heroes MAKE America training programs on military bases to equip solders with the skills to join the manufacturing workforce, expanding vocational training programs in local communities and elevating the examples of successful company-led upskilling programs. Over the long term, we have to focus on the attraction of new talent and inspiring the next generation, just as we are on Manufacturing Day.”


NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons

The NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey is conducted quarterly among the National Association of Manufacturers’ membership of small, medium and large manufacturers. Read the full report at

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