The latest NAM/IndustryWeek Survey of Manufacturers found that rising health insurance costs topped the list of concerns this quarter. The issue was cited by 82.2 percent of respondents, higher than the 74.0 percent level observed in the first quarter survey.
A series of special questions on the Affordable Care Acts drilled further on this topic. Specifically, 99.0 percent of manufacturers surveyed said that they provide health insurance coverage to their workforce, with 38.0 percent of those self-insuring. The average health insurance premium increased 8.6 percent this year, with a whopping 13.9 percent predicted for next year. More than anything, the 2014 numbers suggest just how much uncertainty is out there regarding insurance rates, with the perception out there that they will go up significantly. Just 43.8 percent of manufacturers said that they were prepared to implement the ACA when it goes into effect starting later this year.
Looking at the current economic outlook, 72.3 percent of manufacturers said that they are either somewhat or very positive about their company’s outlook, up from 51.8 percent six months ago and 70.1 percent three months ago. With the exception of the December survey, optimism levels have been roughly 70 percent since September. In essence, this survey confirms the good-but-not-great nature of the current manufacturing economy, much as we have seen in the most recent Institute for Supply Management and employment numbers. Sales are expected to rise 2.7 percent over the course of the next 12 months. While this was higher than the 2.3 percent observed last time, it was still lower than the 4.3 percent observed one year ago. (continue reading…)