WASHINGTON—The plastics industry shipped $274.5 billion worth of products in 1996, a 22 percent jump in two years. The increase propelled plastics up one spot to fourth place among manufacturing segments of the U.S. economy, according to a new study.
That growth pushed plastics past meat products, but it remains behind motor vehicles, petroleum refining and electronic components in rankings of manufacturing segments in 1995, the last year for which government figures are available.
Those are among the highlights of the latest edition of the study from Millwood, N.Y.-based Probe Economics Inc. The report was released Dec. 9 by the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. at its annual news briefing.
Washington-based SPI uses the report, which analyzes government figures, to tout the plastics industry to the public and policy makers.
The report also notes which states are seeing the job growth in plastics, with North Carolina replacing Wisconsin among the top 10 states, and Alabama jumping from 39th to 23rd. States with double-digit growth in their plastics industries include Oregon, Ohio, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Illinois and California.
Internationally, the report spotlighted China and Brazil for rapid growth, said Lori Anderson, director of economic and international trade issues for SPI.
China consumed 6.9 percent of the world's plastics in 1996 — up a full percentage point in just two years, she said. Brazil went from 2.2 percent of the world total in 1994 to 2.8 percent in 1996, while the United States dropped slightly but remained at about 24 percent of global consumption.
U.S. plastics jobs tied to exports have grown 5 percent a year since 1992, to 118,000 in 1996 — or 4.2 percent of all U.S. plastics jobs.
Not surprisingly, total plastics jobs rose at least 4.4 percent a year from 1991-96, outpacing the average for manufacturing plants. But the report said the industry's productivity per worker kept pace with averages, a ``significant accomplishment, given the rate at which the plastics industry is adding employees.''
For each year between 1989 and 1996, productivity grew 3.3 percent for workers in plastics products and 4.8 percent for those in resins, vs. 3.2 percent growth for overall manufacturing.
Among plastics products manufacturers, Delaware was the most productive state, while Michigan fared best among mold makers and California and Maine shared top billing for machinery makers.
The U.S. plastics industry, including resin manufacturing and captive processing, employed 1.3 million people in 1996 — up 9 percent from 1994, the report said.
California employed 9.1 percent of the U.S. plastics industry, followed by Ohio at 8.4 percent. Following those were Michigan, Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, Indiana and New York.
When the report adjusted for each state's population and looked at those having the highest percentage of plastics jobs, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio were the top three.