In the 20 years that The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has been measuring the sentiments of the manufacturing sector, 2018 stood out. On average this year, 92.4% of manufacturers surveyed reported a positive outlook for their companies, according to the group’s. Manufacturers' Outlook Survey for the fourth quarter of 2018, released on Dec. 20.
Putting a damper on the positive outlook, however, was the inability to attract and retain a quality workforce remained manufacturers’ top concern (68.2%) in the fourth quarter, followed by increased raw material costs and trade uncertainties.
The workforce shortage has forced more than one in four manufacturers surveyed to turn down new business opportunities. According to the latest government data, there are now 522,000 open manufacturing jobs in the United States (an all-time high). A new report from The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte projects that 2.4 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled over the next decade.
Highlights from the fourth quarter survey include the following:
- Optimism among small manufacturers remained high at 87.9%.
- Manufacturers predict strong growth rates in employee wages (2.3%), capital investments (2.6%) and sales (4.3%) over the next 12 months.
- Attracting and retaining a quality workforce remained manufacturers’ top concern (68.2%).
- The inability to attract a quality workforce has forced more than one in four manufacturers to turn down new business opportunities.
Increased raw material costs and trade uncertainties marked the second- and third-largest challenges for manufacturers, at 65.1% and 60.4%, respectively.
“Empowered by tax reform and regulatory certainty, manufacturers are keeping our promise to expand our operations, hire new workers and raise wages and benefits,” said NAM CEO Jay Timmons.
But as this survey also shows, we face challenges, most seriously the workforce crisis. We have more than half a million jobs to fill right now—and by 2028, as many as 2.4 million could go unfilled if we don’t equip more Americans to take on these high-tech, high-paying careers.”