The results of the latest quarterly survey from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) show continuing economic challenges as well as some encouraging signs for growth. 61.7% of manufacturers are either somewhat or very positive about their own company’s outlook, up from 56.6% in March. Activity levels remain well below ideal however, manufacturers anticipate sales to grow 1.6% over the next 12 months, up from 0.4% in March but down sharply from in December 2014 where they grew 4.5%. As with the past few surveys, the numbers are highly correlated with trade data. Firms that are more upbeat about exports are more positive in their company’s outlook. Overall, respondents expect exports to increase 0.2% over the next 12 months, improving from an expected decline of 0.6%. Full-time employment levels are expected to grow 0.2% over the next year.
The top challenges reported were an unfavorable business climate and rising health insurance costs, both cited by roughly three-quarters of respondents. 82.6% said that their company’s total spending on state and federal regulatory compliance had increased in the past few years.