Employment in plastics manufacturing overtakes U.S. manufacturing industry


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Despite a widespread movement to reduce the production and use of plastics, demand for the material shows no signs of slowing down.

The Plastic Industry Association Size and Impact Report 2021, which is released annually, provides a benchmark in terms of data on employment, capital spending, shipments, and other specialist numbers.

“The plastics manufacturing industry has grown faster than any other manufacturing industry,” said Dr. Pirc Pineda, economist, Plastics Industry Association.

One of the key questions the report answers is how the pandemic has affected the size of the plastics industry. Despite a marked increase in single-use plastics, COVID-19 caused a nine-tenth of a percent drop in plastics manufacturing shipments in real terms, Pineda said. In nominal terms, there was a roughly 2.4% drop in plastic manufacturing shipments last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, which represents industry suppliers.

“If we look at the shipments of the entire manufacturing sector of the economy, for example, this provides clues to the health of the economy and the rise in shipments indicates an optimistic manufacturing sector,” Pineda said.

The plastics industry’s total shipments in 2020 were “at least” $ 541.6 billion, including the $ 146.9 billion generated by supplier industries. Excluding supplier industries, plastics shipments totaled $ 394.7 billion.

“If you look at the value of shipments adjusted for inflation, then the plastics industry has grown faster than any manufacturing industry,” Pineda explained.

The plastics industry is the eighth largest industry in the United States, with 15,688 establishments excluding those that manufacture captive plastic products or provide goods and services to the plastics industry.

The report showed that over the past 23 years, employment in the plastics industry, actual shipments and real value added have performed better than manufacturing as a whole. Pineda attributed this to the fact that the plastics industry is relatively new compared to other materials and manufacturing methods.

Pineda analyzed industry data between 1997 and 2020, showing actual shipments per employee increased 1.2% while plastics manufacturing as a whole increased 1.1%. After adjusting for inflation, shipments grew at an annual rate of 0.7% between 2010 and 2020. Despite the recession caused by the pandemic, the real value increased at a rate of 1.4%. In 2020, the total value added of plastics manufacturing was over $ 144 billion.

“If we adjust the value added for inflation and index it from 1997, we will see that the value added of the plastics manufacturing industry has increased before any of the manufacturing industries,” Pineda said. “This indicates that plastics manufacturing has a higher degree of innovation than other industries. I’m not saying we’re the most innovative, but if you compare it to the whole manufacturing sector, we have a higher innovation than other industries. “

Employment in plastics manufacturing has overtaken all manufacturing in the United States, growing an average of 1.2% per year between 2010 and 2020, while employment in manufacturing in the United States has increased at a rate of 0.6% over the same period. The industry had a payroll of $ 52.1 billion in 2020, totaling more than 945,300 jobs. Texas leads the plastics industry employment, followed by Ohio, California, Michigan, and Illinois.

The United States consumed $ 263.8 billion worth of plastics in 2020. Consumer products totaled 83% of that figure, up from 79% in 2019.

As restaurants and events continue to return more than a year after the start of the pandemic, demand for packaging for off-premises consumption is expected to be stable, Pineda said.

“My feeling is that it will continue to remain stable for an extended period, not only because we have to eat, but it’s because there is always an inequality in how states and localities have actually reopened. to the economy, ”he explained. . “So there will always be this take-out food purchase in addition to opening up the service sector bit by bit.”

Capital spending by the U.S. plastics industry was $ 13.6 billion in 2020, up from $ 14.7 billion in 2019. According to Pineda, this demonstrates the value the company finds in plastic products. .

“There is only one way to check if your product is of value to society,” he explained. “And is that the demand would actually be greater than zero, which means someone is buying it and finding a use in it. And so it has value to society. And that’s really what’s happening. in the plastics industry. “

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