U.S. manufacturing workers were less confident in the economy, their employers' prospects and the job outlook in the first quarter, based on the results of a survey by the staffing firm Randstad.
The Randstad Manufacturing Employee Confidence Index—a measure of overall confidence among manufacturing workers—declined 3.6 points to 51.0 in the first quarter of 2013, the firm said.
However, a Randstad executive said the survey results could be "an irregularity" due to anxiety over the sequester, rising fuel prices and the payroll-tax hike.
"We still believe the U.S. manufacturing sector is well-positioned to experience a significant rebound and likely surpass worldwide competition in the future," said Phyllis Finley, executive vice president at Randstad US.
Among the highlights of Randstad's first-quarter survey:
- Twenty-eight percent of manufacturing workers said they believe the economy is getting stronger, showing no change from the previous quarter.
- Nearly half (45 percent) of workers said the economy is getting weaker, climbing 12 percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2012.
- The number of manufacturing employees who believe fewer jobs are available increased slightly, rising from 48 percent to 50 percent.
- The percentage of manufacturing employees who said they are not confident in their ability find a job rose six percentage points to 25 percent this quarter.
- The percentage of workers confident in the future of their employers fell to 53 percent, dropping six percentage points from the previous quarter's readings.
Saved by Software?
Despite the somewhat grim results, Finley said the use of software is one reason that she is optimistic about the future of U.S. manufacturing.
"Software that bridges the virtual environment and the real world promises to streamline and bring efficiencies to the manufacturing process and boost productivity levels," Finley said.
Citing data from Wanted Analytics, Finley noted that manufacturers in February posted more than 8,500 online job ads for software developers, representing 8 percent of the total demand for such positions.
"Hiring for software developers in manufacturing is 61 percent higher than demand seen at this time four years ago," Finley said.
"As the sector is rejuvenated by the utilization of software, more U.S. companies are bringing their manufacturing jobs back to American shores from overseas—also driving more growth and demand for skilled manufacturing workers."
Harris Interactive conducted the survey on behalf of Randstad in
January, February and March. The survey included 3,631 adults, 149 of
whom were employed in manufacturing.