Manufacturing survey sees 2010 hiring rebound

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A new report based on a survey of small- to mid-sized U.S. manufacturers has found that 44 percent of the companies plan to begin hiring workers again as soon as next year if the economy rebounds as they expect.

Workers stuff Pink salmon into cans at the Alitak Cannery in Alitak, Alaska July 30, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

But first, according to the report from RSM McGladrey, the manufacturing sector, which has lost 1.6 million jobs since the recession began, needs to put 2009 behind it.

The report, which was based on a survey of 923 manufacturers and will be released later on Monday, found that 40 percent of manufacturers said their businesses were still declining, 18 months after the current recession began, up from just 12 percent last year.

Only 9 percent characterized their current business as “thriving and growing,” down from 38 percent last year when the recession took hold, and nearly 50 percent back in 2007.

Sixty-two percent of the companies responding said they were girding for sales declines domestically. As a result, 52 percent said they planned to cut jobs in 2009, up from 26 percent last year.

The downturn is not affecting all manufacturers the same way, RSM McGladrey found.

Executives at companies that make medical devices and food and beverages were far more upbeat than those in the transportation equipment, building materials and metal fabrication sectors. Companies with international footprints and sales are doing better, on average, than those confined to the domestic market.

“Not all of manufacturing is in terrible shape,” said Tom Murphy, the lead author of the RSM McGladrey report.

“There are segments that are doing well.”

Forty-four percent of the manufacturers surveyed said they expect the economy to rebound next year.

“That’s significant,” said Murphy. “The light at the end of the tunnel is actually good news. It’s not the train rolling down the track any more.”

Reporting by James Kelleher, editing by Matthew Lewis