Manufacturing workers all over the country are saying they are more confident than ever in their ability to find new work in the sector, with one of the leading indexes showing major improvement for the third consecutive month.
The index is an overall barometer of the confidence among U.S. manufacturing workers. The reading climbed 3.7 points to 54.6 in the final quarter of 2012, marking the highest reading since the first quarter of 2007 - before the U.S. officially entered the recession.
The survey heard from 152 manufacturing workers in areas around the nation, with their sentiments reflecting the October, November and December period.
"Companies are starting to invest again and in turn, job creation is following," said Phyllis Finley , executive vice president of the survey conductor. "Some of the sectors that have been hiring heavily include automotive, supply chain and advanced manufacturing. Technical and skilled employees within the manufacturing sector are also in high demand."
The latest Purchasing Managers Index for the manufacturing sector showed strong growth in manufacturing staffing in January, with the reading rising to 53.1 percent from 50.2 percent in the previous month. The employment segment of the index was also promising, which came in at 54 in January, 2.1 percentage points higher than the 51.9 that was reported in December. This also marked the 40th consecutive month of growth for manufacturing employment.
The recent survey found that 28 percent of manufacturing employees say they feel the economy is improving, up six percentage points from who said in the same in the previous quarter. This is compared with only 33 percent of respondents who said they feel the economy is getting weaker.
What's more, the outlook among these workers is also better compared with readings from the third quarter, with the number of employees who believe fewer jobs are available falling from 55 percent to 48 percent. Employees are also increasingly saying they think more jobs are out there waiting for them, rising to 22 percent from only 13 percent in the third quarter of the year.
Another 37 percent of respondents said they plan to look for another manufacturing job in the next year.
Widespread Good News
It doesn't seem like the optimism is isolated to the manufacturing sector, either. According to Bloomberg, the time unemployed Americans go without a job has shrunk significantly, falling to a median of 16 weeks in January, compared with 25 weeks in June 2010. The new data, released by the Department of Labor, show Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke may have been correct when he asserted that the labor market in the country is still flexible, and the duration of joblessness hasn't become permanent.
"There is little threat that aggressive monetary policy will be inflationary," said Dale Mortensen, a professor of economics at Northwestern University. "The market will return to normal as household consumption does. That will still take more time but seems to be happening."
This is favorable news to contract staffing firms, which will likely see a pick up in demand for their services, according to BMO Capital Markets senior analyst Jeffrey Silber.
"As it becomes more difficult to find qualified labor, you need to use outside experts - whether temporary staffing providers or full-time recruiters - to help fill these positions," he said.
This will likely also give rise to other labor solutions that have performance-based labor options that give new hires financial incentives to do well, in turn raising productivity. In a time when employees are moving forward with cautious optimism, they'll increasingly use such staffing options to drive up overall productivity and ultimately reduce labor costs.