The Manufacturing Circle’s investment tracker showed an upward trend in 2017 after the fourth-quarter rise of three index points to 63 — the same level as in the first quarter.

It jumped five index points on the same quarter in 2016, despite a dip in the third quarter, with results consistently above the neutral 50-point mark. This was mainly driven by manufacturers investing in property amid higher spending on salaries and wages.

The latter is usual in the fourth quarter, as companies hire more temporary staff to meet increased demand at the end of the year.

"Management teams are more positive about the future," André de Ruyter, chairman of the Manufacturing Circle and CEO of packaging maker Nampak, said on Monday.

This was evidence of the "resilience of the respondents" — mostly medium to large companies, he said.

More than half the index subsectors consist of groups involved in basic iron and steel, metal products and machinery, motor vehicles, motor parts and accessories, and the making of other transport equipment.

With unemployment at a 14-year high and business confidence at its lowest level in 25 years, delivering jobs and inclusive growth was the ’s state’s top priority, De Ruyter said.

Within the index, there was a 16-point rise to 66 points in investments in the expansion of existing property and the purchase of new buildings. Expenditure on property maintenance rose from 58 to 66 points, the highest level since the index was introduced in mid-2016.

Philippa Rodseth, executive director of the Manufacturing Circle, said lack of skills, especially at municipal level, and poorly maintained infrastructure were hindering growth.