WASHINGTON Manufacturers remain optimistic about their own companies in the last quarter of 2014, continuing an upward trend over the past two years, according to a National Association of Manufacturers survey.

Key survey findings include the following:

About 91.2 percent of respondents were either somewhat or very positive in their own company’s outlook, marking the fourth time since the survey began in 1997 that the measure has eclipsed 91 percent.

Manufacturers expect to hire more workers, increasing their employee levels over the next year by 2.1 percent, up from 1.9 percent in the last survey. They also expect sales to increase 4.5 percent over the next 12 months, the fastest pace in over two years.

About 83 percent of respondents identified reducing the regulatory burden as the top policy for the 114th Congress. 77.1 percent of respondents cite rising health care and insurance costs as their primary business challenge.

Eighty-three percent of respondents said their health insurance premiums will increase by 5 percent or more in 2015, with 50.9 percent indicating their costs will increase by 10 percent or more.

“Manufacturers continue to create opportunities in the United States and are optimistic about the future,” said NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray. “However, Washington gridlock, continued concern about the global economy and headwinds such as rising health care costs and regulatory burdens continue to loom large on manufacturers’ minds. As Washington prepares for the 114th Congress, manufacturers are counting on policymakers to focus on pro-growth measures that will keep the momentum going and foster continued economic growth.”

The NAM/IndustryWeek Survey of Manufacturers was conducted among the NAM’s membership of small, medium and large manufacturers.

For more information, visit www.nam.org.