NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey: First Quarter 2017

Americans appear to be more optimistic about growth in recent months, and manufacturers are no exception. New results from the NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook survey show manufacturers’ optimismrose to a new all-time high in the survey’s nearly 20-year history. This corresponds with a pickup in manufacturing activity and is a welcome turn of events given the challenges the sector has endured over the past two years. The rising confidence stems from the belief that the new administration in Washington, D.C. will bring much needed regulatory relief—as well as reforms to the tax code and a significant infrastructure package. Indeed, business leaders are cautiously hopeful that pro-growth policies from Washington will allow the country to emerge from the sluggish expansion seen in the years since the Great Recession.

In this latest NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, 93.3 percent of manufacturers are either somewhat or very positive about their own company’s outlook, up from 56.6 percent one year ago and 77.8 percent in December (Figure 1). As a result, the NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Index also soared to a new high, up from 53.3 in December to 63.7 in this report (Figure 2). It was the second straight quarter where the outlook exceeded its historic average—which would equate to 50 in the index—and there were strong gains in confidence for all firm sizes.