North American robots were up 5.2 percent in the third quarter of 2019, and orders to the plastics and rubber sector rebounded, increasing by 15 percent in year-to-date numbers.
The Robotic Industries Association released the data Nov. 21.
Orders to the plastics and rubber sector had declined by 8 percent in the first half of 2019, but for the third quarter, the automotive industry drove robot growth with a 47 percent increase.
Plastics and rubber were the next biggest growth area, followed by food and consumer goods, which gained 4 percent. In the quarter, 23,894 robots were ordered, with a value of $1.3 billion, the trade association said.
"We continue to see improvement in the robotics market," RIA President Jeff Burnstein said. "At this time last year we saw a dip in orders of around 15 percent, so it's encouraging to see a recovery through the third quarter. We hope to end the year strong and see growth in 2020 as well."
Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Robotic Industries Association, part of the Association for Advancing Automation, said increased use of robotics and automation creates jobs, citing the trade group's research that over the last 22 years, U.S. unemployment went down in every period that robot sales went up. The groups said the reverse also happened: when robot sales dropped, unemployment went up.
During the greatest expansion of U.S. robot use — from 2010 to today — around 180,000 robots have been shipped to American companies and more than 1.2 million new manufacturing jobs were created.
Many of these robots work in manufacturing jobs left unfilled by the labor shortage, the groups said.
"They're especially filling the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs people don't want to do," RIA said.