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Manufacturer Optimism Still Low


The higher tax burden being levied on manufacturers continues to hit home.

That’s the message from respondents to the NAM’s just-released Q4 2023 Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey.

What’s going on: Historically low levels of optimism persisted among small and medium-sized manufacturers—which compose the majority of the manufacturing sector—in the final quarter of 2023, according to the survey, which was conducted from Nov. 14 to Dec. 1, 2023.

  • Among firms with fewer than 50 employees, 65.9% reported feeling positive about their own company’s outlook, while 63.0% of companies with between 50 and 499 employees reported the same.
  • Overall, 66.2% of respondents felt either somewhat or very positive about their company’s outlook, edging up slightly from 65.1% in the third quarter. It was the fifth straight reading below the historical average of 74.8%.

Burdensome taxes: Some 89% of respondents said higher taxes on manufacturing activities would make it more difficult for them to hire additional workers, invest in new equipment and/or expand their facilities.

Other top challenges: The majority of respondents—61.1%—cited an unfavorable business climate as a top challenge to their company.

  • Hiring and retaining quality employees was high on the list of challenges, too, with 71.4% of manufacturers calling it a primary concern.

A bright spot: Fewer manufacturers now expect a recession in 2024, at just over 34%. In Q3, the figure was 42.2%.

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