AMBA's results from the Winter 2004 Business Forecast Survey show that business is looking slightly improved for its member companies compared to Fall forecast results.
Sixty-one companies responded to the survey-13 percent report that business is "excellent," while 75 percent report that business is "good" or "fair." It is a welcome boost from the 7 percent that had reported "excellent" business conditions, and 60 percent reporting "good" or "fair" business conditions in the Fall survey.
Where much of the Fall survey showed a flatness and some decreases for responding companies, the Winter survey reveals increases across the board in quoting, shipments, backlog and employment. Employment remained the same as the previous quarter for 62 percent of the respondents, showing that hiring has improved slightly and employment among the responding shops is steady. Profits are a wash with 25 percent of the respondents reporting profits are up; 25 percent reporting that profits are down; and 49 percent reporting that profits remained the same as the previous quarter.
Average shop workweek hours are up considerably to 56 hours, compared to 44.4 hours in the Fall survey, with design and engineering hours up to 47 hours from 42.9 hours in the Fall survey. That's the biggest up tick we've seen in hours in more than a year, which says that although shops aren't on a hiring spree, those current employees are working more hours.
2003 was not as bad as many anticipated, with 15 percent responding that their business for 2003 was "up significantly" and 37 percent responding that their business was "up slightly" over 2002. Given the doom and gloom we went through last year, 2003 was refreshingly bright for many mold companies. That's more optimism than we've seen in the moldmaking business in more than a year. That optimism appears to be carrying over into 2004 with 8 percent of the respondents expecting business to increase substantially over the first three months, while 41 percent expect business to increase moderately during the first quarter.