US chems, plastics shed jobs, but unemployment rate falls

07 August 2009 16:10  [Source: ICIS news]

The US economy lost 247,000 jobs in JulyHOUSTON (ICIS news)--The US chemicals and plastics industries experienced continued job losses in July, but the overall US unemployment rate fell for the first time since April 2008, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Chemical sector job losses totalled 2,600 in July from June for a decline of 0.3%, bringing the seasonally-adjusted workforce total to 809,200.

That figure was 4.8% below the 850,000 employed in July 2008.

Job losses in the plastics and rubber sector were more pronounced, with 7,100 jobs cut in July for a 1.1% decline, dropping the workforce total to 629,300.

The total workforce in that sector was off 14.9% from the 739,300 employed in July 2008.

Overall, the US economy shed 247,000 jobs, while the unemployment rate fell unexpectedly to 9.4%. The rate was 9.5% in June.

Economists had expected a loss of 325,000 jobs and a jobless rate rising to 9.6%, according to news reports.

Moreover, the average monthly job loss for May through July (331,000) was about half the average decline for November through April (645,000), bringing hope that the rate of the economic decline could be slowing.

The overall number of unemployed declined to 14.46m in July from 14.73m in June and 14.51m in May.

The long-beleaguered automobile industry, a crucial end-use market for chemicals, saw employment rise 4.4% to 660,700 in July amid strong sales, largely due to the government’s "cash for clunkers" rebate programme.

That figure was up from 632,500 in June and 654,200 in May, but still down 26% from 892,900 workers in July 2008.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) estimates that each US-made automobile uses 331 lb (150kg) of plastics, making the automotive industry an end-use barometer of chemical demand.

Each automobile made in the US contains nearly $2,700 (€1,890) worth of chemical products or chemical processing value, according to the ACC.

Employment in construction, another end-use market for chemicals, fell 1.2%, to 6.15m in July from 6.22m in June.

($1 = €0.70)

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By: Ben DuBose
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