2 Studies Show Optimism, Employment Up In Manufacturing

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There are 2 recent studies that suggest that manufacturing in the U.S. and around the globe is making notable improvement. The surveys - one measuring global employment outlook among manufacturers & the other measuring manufacturing business indicators in the U.S. - suggest overall optimism, but with a few caveats.

In it's annual Global Manufacturing Employment Outlook Survey of 61,000 manufacturers around the world, Manpower Inc. presents data that shows growth among the vast majority of major manufacturing economies.

Employers in 31 of the 36 countries and territories Manpower surveys expect to add to their workforces in Quarter 3 2010. In quarter-over-quarter comparisons, Outlooks improve in 23 of 36 countries and territories. Where year-over-year comparisons can be made, hiring expectations are stronger in 30 countries and territories.

Forecasts are strongest in India, Brazil, Taiwan, China, Peru and Australia. However, hiring intentions are weakest in Italy, Ireland, Spain and Greece, where employers report the only negative hiring intentions among the countries and territories surveyed.

While U.S. manufacturers show some optimism for employment growth in the 3rd quarter of '10 - up 2% from last quarter, and up 8% over last year - those expectations are tepid compared to the companies mentioned above. But take a second look, and that modest growth is welcome after one of the worst manufacturing downturns ever. (See chart below from the Manpower report.)


Also noteworthy from the survey is that large manufacturers & OEMs in the U.S. expressed stronger employment expectations than small and midsized manufacturers, results that were also found in the most recent MFGWatch Survey of North American Manufacturers from this past April.

Globally, the most notable growth in manufacturing employment among major economies are - shockingly - in APAC: China (up 10% quarter-on-quarter, and 25% year-on-year), India (6% and 19%) and Taiwan (4% and 27%).

But North America represents with strong expectations from Canada (5% and 11%) and Mexico (3% and 17%).

In EMEA, the anticipated growth is marginal with only Germany (7% and 12%) showing significant optimism.

All in all, the Manpower survey shows that manufacturing - in the U.S. and globally - is moving in the right direction. But much more is needed to offset the massive losses across the board.

In another survey of U.S. Manufacturing and Wholesale Distributors (registration required; select this link for the press release), McGladrey also reports optimism - especially among larger manufacturers. The survey presents data from 1,061 respondents.

(L)larger manufacturers and distributors convey higher optimism than other manufacturers and distributors regarding business conditions. This is due in part to their ability to strengthen their competitive advantage through global engagement and international trade.

However, small and midsized manufacturers and distributors express tempered optimism as they move into the recovery. This stems in part from concern over credit availability, potential raw material and energy cost increases, and cautious investments in inventory.

Both exports and domestic sales showed strong growth among the participants:

Nearly half (47 percent) of companies report that export sales have increased, up four percentage points from 2009. In addition, among those companies that say international sales are key to business growth, 88 percent anticipate revenue increases in foreign markets. To accomplish this, companies are more likely to broaden their sights outside of traditional U.S. trading partners to other foreign markets, such as Brazil, India and China.

On the domestic front, 71 percent of business leaders project U.S. sales will rise in 2010, roughly three times the percentage forecast in 2009 (25 percent). And although the rate of international sales is expected to slow slightly from last year, 44 percent of companies expect an increase in sales, compared to 21 percent in 2009.

Strong gains were also reported in the McGladrey data - nearly half (48%, yo) say they plan to hire in 2010, which nearly triples the same result from last year's survey.

But while 95% of resondents say that they are investing in innovation (whatever they think that means, that's encouraging), 94% "expressed concern" over the impact of pending health care reform on their businesses. As a matter of fact, several pending policies from the gubmint have manufacturers concerned. They include "changing energy policy" (81%), the Employee Free Choice Act (81%) and Cap and Trade (80%).

But the overall mood of manufacturing seems to be improving - as shared from the source itself. Barring unforeseen economic calamity - a double-dip recession, extreme natural disaster or economic tsunami (uh, BP - are you listening?) - manufacturing in the U.S. and globally may be poised for meaningful growth into 2011.

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