Is the manufacturing sector already on its way to an economic recovery? The answer is a resounding “yes,” based on the results of a poll of factory executives, supervisors and engineers conducted by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association (FMA) International, Rockford, Ill.

More than seven in 10 (72 percent) of manufacturers surveyed at the Fabtech trade show in Atlanta earlier this month reported business is either "much better" (31 percent) or "somewhat better" (41 percent) in 2010 when compared to 2009. Another 18 percent said business was neither better nor worse, and 10 percent said it was worse.

This bullish result positively impacted hiring, according to the poll. Nearly half of the respondents (47 percent) said their companies added permanent full-time staff in 2010, and another 30 percent hired temporary workers to handle the increased manufacturing work. Some 17 percent said although no new employees were hired as of yet, the current staff is working additional hours. Eleven percent reported no staff cutbacks, and a mere 3 percent said their firms have laid people off in 2010.

“Economic reports have indicated the manufacturing sector is adding to capacity despite the still weak consumer demand in the United States,” says Dr. Chris Kuehl, economic analyst for FMA. “The fact is that consumers in other parts of the world have been active, and the U.S. manufacturing community has been getting more skilled at reaching those markets."

“The extremely positive findings in this poll dramatically reinforce the good news that the industrial sector continues to grow today,” Kuehl notes. “This certainly bodes well as we look ahead to 2011.”

Some 237 manufacturing executives and supervisors answered the survey, conducted by FMA on November 2-4 at its 2010 Fabtech show exhibit. Fabtech is the largest trade show in North America dedicated to metal forming, fabricating, welding, stamping, tube and pipe, and finishing equipment and technology. The show welcomed some 22,000 attendees this year.