By the numbers

Posted on May 15, 2018 :: By the Numbers
Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

Optimism unchained

U.S. manufacturers expressed record-setting levels of optimism about the future of their companies and industry, according to the latest National Association of Manufacturing Outlook Survey.

In the 20 years of conducting the quarterly survey, manufacturers have never expressed as much optimism about growth, capital investment, employment and inventories as they did during the first quarter of 2018.   

For the economy as a whole, manufacturers reporting the economy is heading the right direction rose to 67.6 percent from 58.7 percent, while the number of firms expressing a negative view of the economy fell to 11.4 percent from 14.6 percent, and those unsure also fell to 21 percent from 26.7 percent.

Manufacturers are particularly positive about their own companies, with 93.5 percent expressing a positive outlook about their own firm, the second-highest score reported in the survey’s history. The highest was 94.6 percent in December 2017.

Additional signs of manufacturer’s optimism:

Sales growth. Manufacturers expect sales growth of 5.7 percent over the next 12 months, up from 5.2 percent
in the last survey.

Production increases. Manufacturers expect production growth of 5.5 percent over the next 12 months, up from 5.0 percent three months ago.

Increased capital spending. Manufacturers expect capital investments to rise by 3.9 percent over the next 12 months, up from 3.4 percent in the past survey, an all-time high.

More workers. Manufacturers expect full-time employment to increase by 2.9 percent over the next 12 months, up from 2.6 percent in the previous quarter.

Increased wages. Manufacturers anticipate wages to rise by2.6 percent over the next 12 months, up from 2.2 percent in December’s survey.

Order up

New orders continued their increase for manufacturers of durable goods, increasing $6.4 billion, or 2.6 percent, to $254.9 billion in March, according to the latest report available from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The March increase, the fourth in the past five months, followed a 3.5 percent February increase. Transportation equipment, also up four of the last five months, drove the increase, rising $6.4 billion, or 7.6 percent, to $91.4 billion.

As orders climbed, manufacturers also increased delivery shipments, up 10 of the past 11 months, according to the March data. Shipments increased by $700 million in March, a 0.3 percent uptick to $250 billion. That follows a February increase of 0.7 percent. Again, transportation equipment led the pack for four of the past five months, increasing $1.5 billion, or 1.8 percent, to $83.4 billion.

Raising a hand

The first brick has yet to be put in place, yet companies from around Wisconsin are lining up for a chance to do business with Foxconn.

As the giant electronics manufacturer prepares to break ground on a $10 billion manufacturing center in Racine County, it has been holding meetings with construction firms across the state and focusing primarily on getting that new facility built.

But that has not stopped those who want to do business with the Taiwanese company once it flips the switch from raising a hand to get noticed. More than 1,100 companies in Wisconsin have registered on the Wisconsin Supply Chain Marketplace for chance at being a Foxconn supplier.

The Wisconsin Supply Chain Marketplace is the statewide version of the Supply Chain Marketplace developed by New North Inc. and the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

Visit the marketplace at