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National manufacturers highlight industry anxiety

Optimism among manufacturers nationally could be waning.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. August 2, 2019
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Some economists and reports cite 2018 as the year of the manufacturer, with partial credit to the Trump administration’s pro-business policies. For 2019, President Donald Trump again factors into the state of manufacturing — only this time it’s far less positive.

To wit: Optimism reached an all-time high in the four 2018 National Association of Manufacturers outlook surveys. Including the first quarter of 2019, at least 88.7% of respondents to NAM’s quarterly survey characterized the current business outlook as somewhat or very positive for five straight periods.

That percentage fell markedly to 79.8% in the 2019 second quarter. 

Although nearly 80% being optimistic is a high mark, it’s the speed of the fall that has the industry anxious. That’s where Trump — specifically the tariff wars with China, Mexico and other countries — come into play. “So far, 2019 has shaped up to be a more challenging year than last,” the NAM report states, published June 21. “Most notably, slowing global growth and trade uncertainties have softened demand, production and employment growth in a number of measures … mixed signals out of Washington and escalating tariffs, most recently threats of tariffs on one of manufacturers’ most important trading partners — Mexico — during the time this survey was in the field, puts at risk the industry’s continued success.”

The survey of manufacturing companies, in a variety of sizes, was conducted May 22 to June 5.

Further intensifying the issue is the survey didn’t even include trade uncertainties as a possible response to business challenges question until the fourth quarter of 2018. At 56% in the second quarter, that worry beat out stalwarts including rising health care costs/insurance costs and increased raw material costs.


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