In the NAM’s first-quarter 2021 Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, manufacturers reported an increase in optimism for the third straight quarter. The survey found that 87.6% of manufacturers felt either somewhat or very positive about their company’s outlook. The number bounced back from the 33.9% reading in the second quarter of 2020, which was the worst since the Great Recession. More importantly, this suggests that manufacturers had the strongest outlook in two years, since the first quarter of 2019.
After plummeting sharply last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the global recession, manufacturing activity has rebounded sharply, with the sector being a bright spot in the economy in recent months. Manufacturing production is likely to exceed pre-pandemic levels in the next couple months, and employment in the sector has risen in all but one month since April 2020. But despite solid growth, the industry still faces supply chain challenges, and companies continue to note workforce challenges.