US chemicals add 1,000 jobs in Dec, but plastics lose 1,400

06 January 2012 18:08  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--The US chemicals industry added about 1,000 jobs in December, the Department of Labor said on Friday, but that gain was more than offset by the loss of some 1,400 jobs in the plastics sector.

As part of its overall monthly employment report, the department said the chemicals industry workforce grew to 782,900 in December compared with the November figure of 781,900.

That jobs gain in the chemicals sector was part of an increase in jobs growth for selected industries, the report indicated.

The 200,000 jobs added nationwide in December were chiefly in transportation, retail trade, health care, mining and manufacturing – with the latter category including the chemicals workforce increase.

Employment in the US plastics and rubber products sector fell from 629,500 in November to 628,100 in December, the department said.

That loss of 1,400 jobs in the plastics industry was matched by a 1,400-jobs downturn in the furniture manufacturing sector. Another 2,300 jobs were lost in the US petroleum and coal products sectors.

But according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the December upturn in jobs growth – and especially the net gain of 23,000 workers in manufacturing – “is definitely good news”.

“The domestic economy, particularly among manufacturers, is starting to rebound after several weak months in mid-2011,” said NAM chief economist Chad Moutray.

“More importantly, recent data suggest that manufacturers are upbeat about production and employment moving forward – a positive sign for the coming months,” he said.

However, Moutray added, “we should also appreciate that significant weaknesses persist in the marketplace”.

“The unemployment rate is still stubbornly high, the housing market is improving but still depressed, economic anxieties about Europe still resonate as well as the uncertainty being created in Washington,” he said.

Economists worry that the new albeit mild recession now developing in Europe could hinder the US recovery, to say nothing of an even greater negative impact if Greece defaults on its sovereign debt and the euro zone crisis deepens.

Moutray also was referring to the US presidential election season that is now formally under way and which could make US businesses uneasy about making new investments or hiring more workers until the outcome of the 6 November 2012 vote is known.

“These concerns suggest that businesses remain cautiously optimistic about 2012,” Moutray said, “but they are mindful of headwinds that still persist around them.”

Paul Hodges studies key influences shaping the chemical industry in Chemicals and the Economy

By: Joe Kamalick
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