Survey: Manufacturers' optimism ticks up

Manufacturers' optimism has perked up to its highest levels in more than a year, according to a new survey released on Monday. 

A National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) survey found that found that 86.1 percent of respondents were either somewhat or very positive about their company’s outlook, the highest sign of manufacturer confidence since the fiscal cliff debate of 2012.

The survey attributes the upturn in the outlook to legislative and legal gains, including the recent budget deal, which reduced fiscal tensions in Washington. 

The survey also credits NAM’s legal victory against the National Labor Relations Board’s poster rule.

Still, Washington remains the biggest challenge to more robust optimism.

All told, 79 percent of respondents said there is an unfavorable business climate because of taxes, regulations and government uncertainties.

Rising healthcare and insurance costs were closely behind at 77.1 percent with most of the concern around the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Manufacturers in America are making more products today and making them better than ever before, which is why they believe in a bright future of growth and job creation,” said Chad Moutray NAM's chief economist.

"However, Washington’s burdensome regulatory, tax and health care policies still loom large in manufacturers’ business decisions, particularly for the smallest companies."

Manufacturers said they expected sales to grow 3.6 percent over the next year, up from 3 percent predicted three months ago. 

On the employment front, manufacturers have added nearly 12,000 workers each month on average since August.

Respondents  said they plan to increase their employment 1.3 percent over the next 12 months, up from 0.9 percent in December.

Still, hiring in the sector is growing more slowly than other indicators. Nearly 58 percent of respondents plan to keep their employment levels constant or to decline.