Manufacturers in Connecticut still face challenges, according to a survey of 191 of them, but there has also been some improvement over the past year.

One of the biggest challenges for manufacturers was finding qualified employees. Last year , 87 percent said they had difficulty locating skilled workers, but that number dropped to about 70 percent in this year’s survey.

This is the second year of the survey conducted by U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

“We have high-quality workers, but not enough of them to fill the jobs manufacturers need today,” Murphy said.

Fifty-six percent of the respondents plan to hire more workers in the next year, 58 percent expect to increase wages, and only 10 percent are planning layoffs, according to the survey.

However, many challenges remain. Ninety-two percent of manufacturers said providing health care coverage was their largest concern. A number of respondents also said tax policy is less of a hindrance to business growth than a continued lack of consumer demand for their products, a concern for 44 percent of the respondents. Increased competition from foreign sources was a concern for 45 percent and the inability to find skilled workers was a concern for 69 percent.

“Our economic salvation in this state is directly tied to the health of the manufacturing sector. We can not compete if we don’t make things in this country,” Murphy said.

Nearly a third of Connecticut’s manufacturers contract with the federal government and Murphy and Blumenthal said they’re committed to helping eliminate “red tape” for these manufacturers.

One of the ways they plan to do this is with Murphy’s “Buy American” legislation. He maintained that 600,000 American jobs would be created if American companies bidding on government work were given priority over foreign companies.

Fifty percent of manufacturers in the state report that they would be able to hire more workers if the “Buy American” laws at the federal level were stronger, Murphy said.

Murphy’s attempts to get his “Buy American” legislation passed have been met by defeat. It’s a point his Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race likes to raise.

“You have made Buy American legislation a centerpiece of your campaign, yet it hasn’t even been passed into law,“ Linda McMahon’s campaign manager says in an email to reporters. “Not only that, but you have voted against it —  twice. How can you claim something is an accomplishment if it hasn’t actually happened and you voted against it? Twice?”

Murphy touted the passage of the Buy American amendment to the defense authorization bill in this video. However, he failed to mention that he voted against the overall bill to which it was attached, because he could not support an open-ended commitment to maintaining troops in Afghanistan.

But on Wednesday Murphy turned the tables back on McMahon, saying he doesn’t know whether she supports the Buy American agenda.

‘Is she criticizing me because she opposes it, or because she’s trying to score political points?” Murphy wondered.

“We’re trying to turn around 20 years of off-shoring of government work. That doesn’t get done in two years alone,” Murphy said.

He said he’s read McMahon’s economic plan and he doesn’t remember any mention of “keeping our taxpayer dollars here in this country.”

McMahon was on an agricultural tour of the state in Wallingford on Wednesday. Asked if she would support Murphy’s Buy American legislation, she said she wasn’t familiar enough with the bill to comment on it.

“I’ve haven’t seen his full bill. What I really want to do is to make sure that we are keeping American business and companies competitive. That’s why in my jobs plan I’ve talked about reducing corporate tax rates from 35 to 25 percent. I want to be able to have companies be incentivized to be here, to create products here, to employ people here,” McMahon said.