Cautious optimism is how most manufacturing executives are approaching the economy over the next six months, according to the results of a recent survey by accounting and consulting firm Baker Tilly. While 57% of respondents said they had a somewhat optimistic" or "very optimistic" outlook for the U.S. economy in the next six months, 47% said the same about the manufacturing sector.
In addition, executives indicated that the massive layoffs that have been occurring at manufacturers of all sizes may be reaching an end. While 20% of respondents indicated they intend to reduce staffing levels over the next six months, 70% said they were planning to keep their staffing levels where they are. On top of that, 9% said they were planning to increase staff.
And while several companies said they would be looking for ways to cut operational costs (80%), supplier costs (65%), and, yes, labor costs (51%), more companies are looking for other ways to improve their bottom line: 66% indicated they are looking for more tax advantages, and 65% plan to increase product and/or customer base diversity.
Not all the news is rosy, however. Nearly half (49%) of respondents expect the performance of their individual companies to decline over the next six months, with 12% admitting future prospects are still uncertain. Executives at smaller companies were more likely to express worry about failing in the near future than large or medium companies.
The results of the survey are based on interviews with 300 senior executives of small, medium and large manufacturing firms in the U.S.