Employment by the U.S. plastics industry shrank 8.4 percent between 2000 and 2002, to 1.4 million people, and industry shipments dropped almost 7 percent, to $310 billion, according to a new report.
The industry maintained its overall position as the fourth- largest U.S. manufacturing industry, however, as larger segments such as automobile manufacturing and electronic components shrank much faster than plastics, according to an analysis of government data from the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.
The SPI report, the latest in the Washington-based trade group's annual series on industry economic performance, said problems in plastics largely reflect the export of manufacturing jobs. The report also said that the global economic slowdown that began in 2000 hit the industry much harder than a similar slowdown in the early 1990s.
Then, the industry kept growing and was ``largely unaffected'' by the overall economic weakness, but the latest recession sent the industry plummeting, SPI said. In 2002, the number of plastics manufacturing facilities shrank to 1996 levels, in part from industry consolidation, SPI said.
The report also noted that industry shipments shrank 5.4 percent annually from 2000-02, when figures are adjusted for inflation based on constant 1999 dollars. The second half of the 1990s also saw much slower growth than the first half. The industry grew 4.9 percent a year from 1990-95, but only 2.2 percent a year from 1995-2000.
The SPI report provides data on various plastics industry segments and state- and county-level data.