Crystal ball is cloudy for manufacturers

Wisconsin’s manufacturers have a mixed outlook on the remainder of 2009, according to a recent survey by The Paranet Group, a Brookfield-based networking and education organization designed for owners and top executives of manufacturing companies.

More than 175 of The Paranet Group’s members responded to the survey, representing 95 different manufacturers primarily located in southeastern Wisconsin.

Most of the companies surveyed – 66 percent – reported they had laid off employees this year. And 68 percent of those companies report they do not plan to bring back any of those laid off workers.

That may be because most companies who responded to the survey, 76 percent, have had no growth this year. And most of them do not expect to see growth through the end of the year.

Just nine percent expect to see growth in the third quarter of 2009, while another 18 percent think their companies will grow during the fourth quarter.

A much larger percentage believe that recovery will happen early next year – 32 and 23 percent of the surveyed companies believe their companies will see growth during the first and second quarter of 2010, respectively.

Fifty percent of the surveyed companies reported salary concessions during the first half of the year, while only 30 percent reported hourly concessions.

Eighty-two percent of those surveyed said they will not give an hourly wage increase this year.

However, there are some bright spots in the survey results.

Seventy two percent of the companies who responded report having an order backlog. And 78 percent of those surveyed said they do not plan to lay off workers this year. Most employers said they do not plan to ask for salary or hourly wage concessions during the second half of the year.

Several of the companies who took the survey said they are finding creative ways to deal with the trying economy and slumping sales.

“We are realigning our traditional customer base’s needs as well as driving into new emerging testing and compliance markets,” one member wrote.

“We just implemented a voluntary program in which employees can buy five days of unpaid time off,” another Paranet member said. “These days have to be used this year and will be deducted from the employee’s pay this year.”

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