Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey: Fourth Quarter 2019

In 2018, manufacturers’ optimism reached an all-time high, according to the NAM’s Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey. After two consecutive quarters in 2019 showing a significant drop in manufacturers’ optimism amid uncertainties, the fourth quarter survey shows that manufacturing optimism has stabilized with nearly 68% of manufacturers reporting a positive outlook for their business, essentially the same rate as the third-quarter release.

The inability to attract and retain a quality workforce remained manufacturers’ top business concern (63.8%) for the ninth straight quarter. The survey was conducted prior to announced agreements on the U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement, “phase one” trade deal with China and long-term reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank—important progress that will boost certainty for manufacturers entering the new year.


Concerned about trade uncertainties.


Cite the inability to find skilled workers as a top challenge.

Our leaders have taken major steps toward bolstering manufacturers’ optimism and confidence. Now we need them to build on that progress by passing the USMCA, signing the ‘phase one’ deal with China and voting to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank. All of these actions have the power to reduce the trade uncertainty we see in this survey. To tackle manufacturers’ number-one challenge, the NAM is supercharging our workforce strategy in 2020 through Creators Wanted, our nationwide tour and campaign to inspire a new generation of modern manufacturing workers. So between trade and workforce, next year will be a critical opportunity to build the foundation for manufacturing growth for years to come.”

– NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons

NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey: Fourth Quarter 2019