Of the 976 National Association of Manufacturers' (NAM) members responding to this year's edition of the trade group's National Manufacturing Week survey, 53% expect the U.S. economy to grow at a moderate 2% to 2.9% rate in 2005. Some 19% expect growth of 1.9% or less, while 20% foresee growth of 3% to 3.9%. Eight percent forecast growth of 4% or more.
NAM companies are still cautious about capital spending, with a narrow 53% majority saying they will increase outlays in 2005 and 47% saying they won't. Of those planning an increase, 64% say the spending will be to modernize and increase efficiency, while 46% report it will be used to increase production capacity.
A near majority of respondents, 47%, say they are holding the line on employment. Some 40% expect to add jobs, and 12% expect to cut back on workers. Of the companies planning significant hiring, 40% will be seeking skilled workers for production jobs, 23% will be after low-skilled workers, 9% will seek highly educated professionals and 5% want to find service workers for support positions. For 36% of the companies with job openings right now, a lack of qualified candidates is the reason, while for a solid majority -- 63% -- it is not.