Survey: Manufacturers Optimistic Despite Stronger Dollar

Manufacturing executives are more optimistic about the U.S. economy than at any point in nearly 10 years, according to the latest quarterly survey from PwC US.

Manufacturing executives are more optimistic about the U.S. economy than at any point in nearly 10 years, according to the latest quarterly survey from PwC US.

The April 2015 Manufacturing Barometer — which interviewed 58 senior executives of large multinational U.S. industrial manufacturers — showed that 76 percent of survey respondents were optimistic about the national economy during the next 12 months, an increase of 8 percentage points from the previous poll and the highest level since the final quarter of 2005.

Eighty-three percent, meanwhile, indicated plans to increase operational spending, the highest level in more than two years. Of those, 55 percent anticipated new products or services, 40 percent expected new research and development spending and 33 percent planned new information technology expenditures.

"As we see increasingly positive views about the domestic economy among U.S. industrial manufacturers, a majority of management teams continue to indicate plans to hire skilled workers and invest in their businesses," Bobby Bono, leader of the company's U.S. industrial manufacturing unit, said.

Respondents, however, were considerably tempered about the global economy's prospects. Although the 42 percent that expressed optimism increased by 4 percentage points compared to the previous survey, the number of companies expecting to expand to new markets or build new facilities abroad each declined.

PwC officials said that reflected increasing warnings about the strength of the dollar and its effect on foreign trade. More than one-fifth of respondents expressed concern about the stronger dollar or the monetary exchange rate, while 17 percent worried about competition from foreign markets.

The survey showed a lack of qualified workers as the leading manufacturing headwind — 35 percent of respondents identified that problem — followed closely by legislative or regulatory pressures at 33 percent and lack of demand at 29 percent.

The latest PwC poll also included questions about robotics in manufacturing processes. Nearly 80 percent of respondents said their companies use robotics, while nearly 60 percent indicated plans to acquire more systems in the next two to three years.

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