A new report from the Plastics Industry Association offers a generally positive economic outlook for the industry, noting that employment is growing after some steep declines, and that shale gas-related investments should help plastics fare better than other manufacturing sectors.
The association's 2016 Size & Impact Report, released Jan. 11, said that employment rose 1.4 percent to 954,000 in 2015, the last year for which figures are available, and it said that U.S. demand for plastics hit a record $295.4 billion that year.
“On the heels of the arrival of a new Congress and, soon, a new administration, the Size & Impact Report shows why the plastics industry will be such an important part of the effort to support job growth in manufacturing,” said Bill Carteaux, president and CEO of the Washington-based association.
The report said plastics industry shipments overall were $418.4 billion in 2015, and it kept its place as the third-largest manufacturing sector, behind oil and gas extraction and automobiles.
It said those $418.4 billion in shipments were down 2 percent from 2014, measured by dollar value, but it noted the volumes of shipments were up. Value went down because the price of plastic dropped on lower oil and gas prices but Carteaux said that's not a significant issue because volumes continued to grow.
“Things have been on the increase the last few years,” Carteaux said in a webinar releasing the report, which the group prepares annually. “There's lots of reasons for optimism in manufacturing right now.”
Carteaux noted positive reports on manufacturing in general from the Federal Reserve banks in New York and Philadelphia, and said a key purchasing managers index for manufacturing hit a 21-month record in December.
The association's presentation included an analysis from the American Chemistry Council tracking plastics processor investment, noting 560 investments in expansion or new construction, with the most coming in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Texas.