Healthcare cost top concern for manufacturers

In a series of special questions on healthcare, nearly all respondents said that they offered insurance coverage to their employees, with 38 percent saying that they self-insured. 

At the same time, more than 56 percent were either not prepared or were uncertain about how their firm planned to implement the healthcare law next year. 

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Also, 41.2 percent said that they were uncertain if their business would join a health insurance exchange later this year. 

The manufacturing sector, which led the early part of the nation's economic recovery, has slowed in recent months, and contracted in May for the first time since November, slowing down to nearly a four-year low. 

"While the long-term health of manufacturing in the United States should be robust, the short-term prognosis has been disappointing," the report said. 

"There has been some progress since the end of 2012 when businesses were pulling back prior to the fiscal cliff deal. However, these gains have been modest and appear to have stalled during the spring."

The global economy — financial struggles in Europe and slowing growth in Asia — have contributed to manufacturers' woes, too. 

The May jobs report showed a loss of 8,000 jobs in the sector, the government reported on Friday. 

Overall, the percentage of respondents who characterized their current business outlook as positive rose slightly to 72.3 percent at the end of the second quarter, from 70.1 percent through the first three months of the year. That is up from a survey low of 51.8 percent hit at the end of last year during the "fiscal cliff" negotiations.  

Still, it falls short of the survey's high of 88.7 percent reached during the first quarter a year ago.