The value of shipments of primary plastics machinery for injection molding and extrusion increased to $432.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2022 in North America — up 4.4 percent from the prior year and 22.3 percent from the prior quarter.
Shipment values climbed 34.6 percent for single-screw extruders, which are used for pipe, profile, rod and sheet applications. Values for injection molding machines were up 25 percent and twin-screw extruder shipments — used for mixing, compounding and producing wood fiber blends — were up 8.9 percent.
Compared with a year earlier, shipments of single- and twin-screw extruders increased 7.6 percent and 25 percent, respectively, while injection molding shipments were 2.9 percent higher.
The statistics were compiled and reported by the Washington-based Plastics Industry Association's Committee on Equipment Statistics.
"The U.S. economy pulled through in the second half of 2022," according to Perc Pineda, the association's chief economist.
He pointed in particular to a turnaround in the last three months of the year compared with the 14.4 percent drop in shipment values reported in the third quarter of 2022.
"The increase in plastics machinery shipments in the fourth quarter speaks of the importance of plastics manufacturing and the stable demand for plastic and plastic products in the economy last year," Pineda said.
The increase includes shipments of backlog production resulting from supply chain problems in previous quarters, Pineda added.
Bill Wood, Plastics News economics editor and founder of Mountaintop Economics & Research Inc., said the plastics association's numbers aren't adjusted for seasonality or inflation so they don't tell the larger story.
"The inflation data, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the producer price index for the category that includes machinery equipment, was up 7 percent year over year, but the machinery data went up 4.4 percent. In real terms, it went down," Wood said.
Wood also looked at data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which releases gross domestic product figures and has a category for investment in industrial equipment that adjusts for seasonality and inflation.
"That number was flat to down slightly [in comparing the quarter]," Wood said. "The data from the government suggests the investment in equipment was flat to down and the [trade group's] 4.4 percent increase looks flat to down."
In addition, Wood said the capacity utilization rate slipped in the fourth quarter and year-over-year output declined 1 percent.