CHICAGO - Reflecting cautious optimism about 2004, a survey of U.S. manufacturers found that many more are planning to add jobs than to cut them this year amid what’s forecast to be the biggest increase in manufacturing production since 1999.
Results of the survey by the National Association of Manufacturers were released Monday at the group’s annual meeting in Chicago.
While 63 percent of the 430 manufacturers responding said they anticipate keeping employment totals the same this year, companies planning to hire new workers outnumbered those expecting layoffs by a 5-to-1 margin (31 percent to 6 percent).
They said the new jobs are much more likely to be skilled production and professional positions than service and support jobs, the trade association said.
Manufacturers’ expectations for economic growth this year were mixed, even though the association’s leaders projected that gross domestic product will rise a solid 4 percent after a 4.3 percent increase in 2003.
The manufacturing group also forecast that manufacturing production will jump by more than 6 percent in 2004 — the fastest pace since 1999. Association president Jerry Jasinowski acknowledged that the forecast reflects ‘‘the optimistic end of the spectrum.’’