Optimism About the U.S. Job Market Is at the Highest Level in 17 Years

According to Gallup, 67 percent of Americans are optimistic that it is now a “good time” to find a quality job, the highest level since the survey began in August 2001. The gains in perceptions about employment opportunities were in all categories, including by gender, age, education, household income and political measures. More than anything, the sense that jobs are more plentiful is the result of a strengthened U.S. economy, with the labor market very tight—at or near what economists describe as “full employment.”

The unemployment rate has fallen to 3.9 percent, the lowest point since December 2000, and forecasts predict that the unemployment rate will fall to 3.5 percent by year’s end. Looking at manufacturing, firms have added nearly 27,000 workers per month over the past seven months, with more than 1.2 million workers hired in the sector since the end of the Great Recession.

With that context in mind, it should not be a surprise that businesses cite the inability to attract and retain a quality workforce as their top concern in the most recent NAM Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey. More importantly from the worker standpoint, expected growth rates for full-time employment and wages were also at paces not seen since at least 2001 in that survey, and workforce shortages are not limited to manufacturing. We continue to hear similar comments from small businesses and the construction and trucking segments, for instance.

Working to inspire and train a 21st-century manufacturing workforce is a top priority at the National Association of Manufacturers. Through initiatives like the “Creators Wanted” campaign, Manufacturing Day and The Manufacturing Institute, manufacturers are working tirelessly to encourage the next generation of American workers to pursue careers in modern manufacturing and helping equip them with the skills they need to get there.

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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