Business leaders in the manufacturing space are pessimistic, with only a third (33%) expecting the U.S. economy to improve in the next six months, according to Grant Thornton’s quarterly survey of U.S. business leaders. The hiring outlook for manufacturing companies is also gloomy — only 37 percent of manufacturing business leaders report that their companies will increase hiring in the next six months.

Even though manufacturing business leaders’ are not optimistic about the U.S. economy, their view of their own businesses is still good, with 77 percent feeling optimistic about their companies’ growth over the next six months.

“This is very consistent with the discussions I have had with our clients across the country, said Walter Gruenes, National Managing Partner of Consumer and Industrial Products at Grant Thornton LLP.” Manufactures are very optimistic about the factors that they can control, such as their own productivity, quality of their products, ability to control internal costs. However, they are pessimistic on matters that they feel are beyond their control. There is a great sense of uncertainty regarding national policy regarding taxes, union and labor matters, export and monetary controls to name just a few. As a result, they are very hesitant to increase their staff until some of the uncertainty is resolved in their own minds.”

With regard to the recession, more than three-quarters (77%) do not think it will end until 2011 at the earliest. Only one in five manufacturing business leaders (19%) say that the recession is already over.

The survey was conducted between August 2-13, 2010, with more than 350 senior executives, of which 52 were from the manufacturing industry. To see all the survey findings,