The National Association of Manufacturers released the results of the Manufacturers’ Out-look Survey for the third quarter of 2019. For the second consecutive quarter, the survey shows a significant drop in manufacturers’ optimism amid uncertainties, a softening global economy and worsening workforce shortage. Nearly 68% of manufacturers had a positive outlook for their business in the third quarter, down from 79.8% in the second quarter and 89.5 percent in the first quarter. The inability to attract and retain a quality workforce remained manufacturers’ top business concern (69.9 percent) for the seventh straight quarter.

“Manufacturers across the country are telling us nothing concerns them more than the workforce crisis. And that’s exactly why the NAM took the historic step earlier this year of launching the Creators Wanted Fund, a multimillion-dollar campaign to close the skills gap and inspire a new generation of modern manufacturing workers,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “This quarter’s survey also provides more evidence that a slowing global economy and uncertainties have manufacturers on edge. If we get the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement passed, the trade war with China turned into a trade agreement and the Export-Import Bank reauthorized, manufacturers will be able to hire even more workers and grow our operations with more certainty.”

Manufacturers have an all-time high of 522,000 open jobs, according to the most recent JOLTS data, and a landmark report published last year by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute—the work-force and education partner of the NAM—found that 2.4 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2028.

The survey found that trade uncertainties among manufacturers rose to 63.4% in the third quarter, up from 56.0% in the second quarter, as Congress and the administration work to approve the US-MCA, secure a U.S.–China trade agreement and reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank.

Conducted by NAM Chief Economist Chad Moutray, the Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey has surveyed the association’s membership of 14,000 large and small manufacturers on a quarterly basis since 1997 to gain insight into their economic outlook, hiring and investment decisions and business concerns.

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