Now it looks like a real trend. According to the latest survey from talent-providing Randstad, overall confidence among manufacturing workers has increased for the third consecutive quarter.

The Randstad Manufacturing Employee Confidence Index, a measure of overall confidence among manufacturing workers, climbed 3.7 points to 54.6 in the fourth quarter of 2012 – its highest point since the first quarter of 2007.
Companies are starting to invest again and, in turn, job creation follows, observed Phyllis Finley, executive vice president at Randstad US. “Some of the sectors that have been hiring heavily include automotive, supply chain, and advanced manufacturing,” she pointed out, adding that technical and skilled employees within the manufacturing sector are also in high demand.

According to the Purchasing Managers Index released by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), the January Index registered at 53.1 percent, an increase of 2.9 percentage points compared to December’s seasonally adjusted reading of 50.2 percent. This indicates growth for the 44th consecutive month in the overall economy, and indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector for the second consecutive month, the ISM reports.

Karen Risse, CSP, a senior area vice president for Randstad, indicated one significant reason for the increased confidence. “There have been some struggles internationally, especially in Europe and Asia, that are driving manufacturing back into the United States,” she told Industry Today.

Reinvigorated Work Force
In addition, the ISM’s Employment Index registered at 54 percent in January, which is 2.1 percentage points higher than the seasonally adjusted 51.9 percent reported in December, and indicates growth in employment for the 40th consecutive month. The growing job market for manufacturing workers is reflected in the overall positive outlook among employees.

The findings, on every economic front, bode well for economic growth, says Risse. “The work force has an increasing level of confidence in the economy. People see more jobs available. Also, they have increasing confidence in their own abilities.”

Optimism runs high on the employers’ side, too, she points out. “They witness a work force that is highly engaged and re-invigorated. They haven’t seen that for some time.”

Q4 2012 Survey Highlights
Major take-home points include:

  • Manufacturing worker confidence in economy is improving: Twenty-eight percent of manufacturing workers believe the economy is getting stronger, rising six percentage points from the previous quarter. Meanwhile, only a third (33 percent) believes that the economy is getting weaker, falling four percentage points from the previous quarter’s readings.
  • Job outlook has improved: Compared to third quarter’s readings, the number of workers who believe fewer jobs are available decreased from 55 percent to 48 percent. Meanwhile, a growing number of manufacturing employees think job availability is improving, rising to 22 percent from 13 percent reported in the third quarter.
  • Confidence increases: Although the number of workers who are confident in their ability to find employment contracted slightly in the fourth quarter – falling from 48 percent to 45 percent in the fourth quarter – the number of workers not confident in their ability to find jobs fell sharply from 31 percent to 19 percent.

At the same time, the percentage of workers confident in the future of their employers fell to 59 percent, a drop of five percentage points from the previous quarter’s readings. Also, 37 percent of manufacturing workers say they are likely to look for a job in the next 12 months, dropping two percentage points from the previous quarter.

Overall, however, the message is positive. “A big take-home point from this report is that this just isn’t a one-off quarter,” says Risse. “It is progressive. Many of the report’s components include 41 consecutive months of improvement, or at least 32 or 21 consecutive months. So this isn’t about a couple of recent months. We’re looking at a solid trend.”

She describes this as a “feel good” story, especially when you consider what is happening in the automotive sector. “We haven’t seen this level of engagement for a number of years,” says Risse.

Survey Methodology
The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Randstad from October 8-10, November 12-14 and December 11-13, 2012 among 4,738 adults ages 18 and older, of which 152 are employed in manufacturing. This online survey is not based on a probability sample; thus, no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

To view the latest quarterly trends report, visit www.randstadusa.com/workforce360/jobs-the-economy/manufacturing-employee-confidence-rises-again-in-the-fourth-quarter/70.

About Randstad
Founded in 1960, Randstad is a $22 billion global provider of HR services and the world’s second-largest staffing organization. Learn more at www.randstad.com. Also, access Randstad’s panoramic US thought leadership knowledge center through its Workforce360site (www.randstadtusa.com/workforce360) that offers valuable insight into the latest economic indicators and HR trends.


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