Economist Peter Mooney noted the Great Recession officially ended in June 2009. Then he delivered this message at a thermoforming meeting: If you're here at this conference today, you've survived the recession. Your next challenge is to survive the recovery.
Mooney said the recovery is still shaky the weakest recovery since World War II, despite massive government stimulus spending.
The pace of recovery seems to have decelerated as we go into the second half of the year. And this has given rise to the concept of the dreaded double-dip recession, he said at the Society of Plastics Engineers' Thermoforming Conference in Milwaukee.
Mooney, president of Plastics Custom Research Services in Advance, N.C., gave a keynote speech Sept. 20 to close the event.
The Great Recession hammered industrial thermoforming, and the recession-resistant thermoformed packaging business did not emerge unscathed, Mooney said.
Overall U.S. manufacturing has displayed quite impressive growth since January, and both thermoforming segments should resume growth from 2010 through 2014. Even so, he said, it will take several years for thermoforming to recover to its level of the early 2000s.
The value of thermoformed packaging output suffered what Mooney called a rare decline of 2.4 percent in 2009, down from 2008 levels. Conventional wisdom says food and food-service packaging which represents about three-quarters of all thermoformed packaging should hold up in an economic downturn.
But what Mooney called the new austerity has taken hold, as consumers rein in spending when confronted with high unemployment, stagnant income, limits on bank lending, higher taxes and health-care costs and uncertainty created by Congress and the Obama administration.
Even so, through 2014, Mooney is predicting a 3.2 percent average annual growth rate in the volume of thermoformed packaging. Taking into account inflation, the sales value of production should grow 5.2 percent a year.
Production of industrial thermoforming plunged by 17 percent when measured by volume in 2009, Mooney said. Sales declined 10 percent in 2009, after a slight drop in 2008, he said, citing Plastics News' ranking data. The big construction market got hit hard in the downturn.
Mooney is optimistic that industrial thermoforming will rebound to grow faster than packaging through 2014, growing an average annual rate of 5 percent or more by volume and 7 percent by sales.