The manufacturing sector is one of the few continuously bright spots of the American economy. After many years in the doldrums, the industry has slowly come back to normal  The year 2014 was a good one for manufacturers, with continuing growth rates in output and employment. These sorts of improvements have been helped by other countries taking a hit in their output, particularly China. There are many reasons to believe that these developments will continue in 2015, especially with the help of new ERP software such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015. Two reports on overall consumer and manufacturer confidence are giving people reasons to hope.

Optimism from manufacturers
Consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers released its quarterly Manufacturing Barometer, talking to 60 executives at large manufacturers. In it, 68 percent of respondents were optimistic about the U.S. economy in Q4 2014, an increase of 11 percent from the previous quarter. The global economy also received a slight boost in optimism at 38 percent, though there is still some wariness on that front.

However, what was most significant about the polling results were the numbers regarding the workforce. Some 60 percent of respondents said that they intended to hire new workers in Q4 2014, up 8 percent. More importantly, though, the net percentage of new hires in the workforce was nearly triple the amount from the previous quarter at 1.1 percent. Not only are manufacturers saying they're looking to hire new employees, they're actually doing so over time. In fact, among the expected barriers to growth, the only responses that saw increases were labor-related, in that 33 percent were worried about a lack of qualified workers while 10 percent saw pressure for increased wages as a problem.

Hope from consumers
Meanwhile, Gallup saw recent gains in confidence from regular Americans in its Economic Confidence Index. For the week ending Jan. 18, the polling firm said that economic confidence was at +2. While this was a dip from the previous week of +4, the point remains that this is the fourth consecutive week of positive numbers.

More importantly, economic confidence  is staying within positive territory after spending over seven years below zero, with the most recent low point of -25 having occurred in July 2014. There is still potential that these numbers would re-enter negative numbers in the coming weeks, but there is reason to be hopeful, given the long recession.  With consumers and manufacturers feeling a bit more confident, this presents a good opportunity for businesses to invest in infrastructure such as new ERP software like Dynamics NAV 2015.

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