According to new data from the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), the end of 2011 marked a growth for the U.S. plastics industry, with the first recorded job increase since 1999. The first three quarters of 2012 were also positive for the sector, as moulds and machinery exports rose on levels from previous years, Plastics and Rubber Weekly informed.

In the first nine months of the year, there were 885,000 working in the U.S. plastics industry, which is one percent, or 9,000 more compared to 2010. There was another good news for the sector, as the total value of plastic-related shipments grew 11 percent and surpassed $380 billion during 2011, the SPI said. Moreover, during the first three quarters of 2012, the value of exported moulds increased by 18 percent, whereas exported machinery value went up 8percent compared to last year.

According to SPI president Bill Carteaux, the data proved the resilience of the plastics industry in the United States, as the industry managed to perform much better than other manufacturing sectors. However, he noted that some uncertainties remain for the future, particularly relating to budgets. The industry needs to build on the success from the first half of the year and it cannot afford to let the situation stay as it is at present. The SPI members are seeking long-term budget stability and actions to deal effectively with the national debt and the deficit, Carteaux added.

With the exception of moulds and machinery, overall plastics exports for the first three quarters remained basically unchanged, going up just 0.2 percent. Exports are affected by the uncertainty for the future and this weighs on the industry as a whole, Carteaux pointed out. However, the total shipment value in 2011 was more than a quarter higher than the 2005 level.

Data from the SPI revealed that the fastest growing export markets for U.S. plastics production in 2010 and 2011 were Venezuela, Singapore, Nigeria, Russia and Vietnam, with each country seeing at least 25 percent increase. Almost two-thirds of U.S. export was intended for Mexico, Canada, China, Belgium and Brazil, with export volume for each of those countries growing in 2011. SPI senior international trade director Michael Taylor claimed that signing new agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, as well an improvement in trade relations with Russia, suggest that industry growth can continue at a healthy rate over the following years.

On the other hand, in 2011 the largest share of plastics imports in the United States were held by Canada, China, Mexico, Germany and Japan, which between them accounted for nearly three-quarters of the total import. Overall, plastics imports dropped slightly last year, figures showed.

In total, the U.S. plastics market recorded growth again in 2011, but similar to previous years, the increase is entirely attributed to resin sales, whereas the domestic industry again saw deficits in plastic products, moulds and machinery, the SPI data revealed.