On the heels of a rosy economic report issued recently by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) did some surveying of its own and found that data compiled following November's SEMA Show in Las Vegas indicate a domestic economy on the upswing.
Diamond Bar-based SEMA's president and CEO, Christopher J. Kersting, said the trade group's survey of its members' economic outlook for the fourth quarter is worth noting since it also addresses job growth. ``The survey responses confirm the positive news of an economy on the mend,'' Mr. Kersting said. Officials of SEMA noted the majority of member responses came from small to mid-size companies-members that, as Mr. Kersting put it, ``are on the front line of any economic change...which adds to the value of this opinion sample. These are companies very much in tune with human resources and the need to keep or let go workers.''
The survey asked several questions general to business and specific to the specialty automotive industry. Of these, three inquiries dealt with the members' evaluation of economic strength; business growth optimism/pessimism; and how their outlook might influence employment.
SEMA's analysis of the data found that 78.6 percent of responding members believe the U.S. economy will improve in 2004. Of the respondents, 41.4 percent were ``very optimistic'' about business growth during the coming year; 31.1 percent were optimistic; and 16 percent were somewhat optimistic. SEMA surveyed about 1,000 companies.
SEMA said the survey also showed that 38 percent of responding members increased the number of their employees in 2003, with 36 percent indicating no reduction in work force during the year. ``If we give this information the broadest, non-scientific definition, it might be simply more good news another positive indication that American small and mid-size businesses feel bullish about their prospects and about the automotive aftermarket in particular,'' Mr. Kersting said.
The opinions were gathered by SEMA from individual managers, owners of privately held companies and department heads from mainline consumer brands. The association, which represents the $27 billion specialty automotive industry, has 5,222 member companies. The Department of Commerce recently said that third-quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reports suggest the fastest economic growth in nearly 20 years, while the Conference Board noted consumer confidence is now at its highest level for the year. But experts also agree that any sustained economic improvement must also create jobs, according to SEMA.