Workforce Challenges Topped the List of Primary Business Concerns in Latest Outlook Survey

In the latest NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, the inability to attract and retain a quality workforce is the top business challenge, cited by 72.9 percent of respondents. This continues to be one of the most cited issues for manufacturers, especially as the labor market has tightened significantly. It was closely followed by rising health care costs, at 72.3 percent, which was the number one problem in the prior quarterly survey.

In digging deeper into this issue, 79.8 percent of respondents said they have unfilled positions within their company that they are struggling to fill with qualified applicants. Unfortunately, 34.4 percent of respondents said their company had been unable to take on new business and had lost revenue opportunities because of the inability to attract and retain workers, showing that the skills gap creates real and tangible losses for many companies. However, 52.1 percent said they had not lost business or revenue from their workforce challenges.

In trying to address their skills shortage, two-thirds of manufacturers were working their existing workforce more, with 64.5 percent creating or expanding internal training programs (Figure 7). They were also addressing their workforce challenges by collaborating with educators on skills certification programs (56.5 percent), utilizing temporary staffing services (55.4 percent), encouraging possible retirees to stay longer in their roles (34.5 percent) and working with the local employment office (29.1 percent).

For those respondents offering other solutions, examples included using a headhunter, modifying their approaches to recruiting (such as increased usage of social media) and using temporary help. In addition, roughly 10 percent have considered moving to another location to address their workforce needs.

Chad Moutray

Chad Moutray

Chad Moutray is chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Director of the Center for Manufacturing Research for The Manufacturing Institute, where he serves as the NAM’s economic forecaster and spokesperson on economic issues. He frequently comments on current economic conditions for manufacturers through professional presentations and media interviews. He has appeared on Bloomberg, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox Business and Fox News, among other news outlets.
Chad Moutray

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