Following are the key findings from the January Precision Metalforming Association's report:

Forty-seven percent of participants forecast an improvement in economic activity during the next three months (up from 40% in December), while 43% predict that activity will remain unchanged (compared to 46% last month). Only 10% expect activity will decline (down from 14% in December).

Metalforming companies also expect improvement in incoming orders for the next three months. Fifty-two percent of participants predict an increase in orders (up from 44% in December), while 36% anticipate no change (compared to 40% last month). Only 12% foresee a decrease in orders (down from 16% in December).

With respect to average daily shipping levels, 26% percent of participants say activity is above levels seen three months ago (compared to 27% in December), while 50% report that shipping levels are the same as three months ago (up from 38% last month). However, 24% report a decrease in shipping levels (compared to 35% in December).

“In spite of a modest year-end softening in orders, metalforming companies experienced significantly improved business conditions in 2010 and anticipate continued growth in 2011,” said William E. Gaskin, PMA president. “On average, for the first 11 months of 2010, metalforming companies reported a 41 percent increase in orders and a 37 percent increase in shipments compared to 2009.”

Furthermore, a recent poll conducted by MetalForming magazine reports that 31 percent of respondents are “hiring back in a big way to handle rapid growth in orders,” while 41 percent were more cautious, reporting “we’ll add to our workforce slowly as the year goes on, until we can get a good feel for the recovery.” Another 27 percent indicated that they were relying on improved productivity of existing employees and not yet hiring.