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Editor's Note: Will Corporate Optimism Be Sustained?

Policies yet to be implemented by the Trump administration could affect the current mood of corporate optimism — for better or worse.

Q1 2017
Our most recent surveys of our corporate executive readers and the consultants who serve industry were conducted immediately after the 2016 presidential election — and respondents to both surveys are bullish about the economy under the new Trump administration. Trump’s campaign promises to cut corporate taxes, reduce regulations, and invest in infrastructure are seen as positive moves by industry executives.

Nonetheless, countering the promised corporate tax cuts is Trump’s threat to slap tariffs on companies that move jobs overseas and then import their products back to the U.S. Although this measure has not been clearly defined, it could meet with corporate resistance, as noted by Michael R. Strain of the American Enterprise Institute in a recent New York Times article.

President Trump has also promised to create 25 million new jobs, many of which will be in the factories he plans to bring back to U.S. shores. However, as noted by Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, “The offshored jobs President Trump has promised to return will not look like those that left. Manufacturing industries change rapidly, and so do the skill sets they require of workers upon entry.

Many companies are already struggling to find workers to fill today’s high-skill manufacturing jobs. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures confirm that 325,000 manufacturing jobs were unfilled in December 2016. And 80 percent of the 400 U.S. executives, most of whom are with manufacturing firms, recently surveyed by human resources consultancy Randstad Sourceright say a shortage of sufficiently skilled workers will affect their ability to hire in the coming year.

Additionally, many skilled workers in the U.S. today are working under the H1-B visa program, which is due to come under a lot of scrutiny by the Trump administration. How the new administration addresses the issues of immigration and workforce training, as well as trade agreements, offshoring, and other concerns remains to be seen, but it will ultimately affect the sustainability of corporate optimism, plans for growth, and business competitiveness.

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