Jobs Decrease In Most Regions | July 7, 2008 Issue - Vol. 86 Issue 27 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 86 Issue 27 | pp. 57-60
Issue Date: July 7, 2008

Jobs Decrease In Most Regions

Japan was the only country to see major employment growth, U.S. continued decline
Department: Business, Career & Employment
Employment at Air Products increased in 2007, while overall U.S. chemical employment decreased.
Credit: Air Products & Chemicals
Employment at Air Products increased in 2007, while overall U.S. chemical employment decreased.
Credit: Air Products & Chemicals

EMPLOYMENT AT MAJOR chemical companies around the world declined in 2007, in contrast to 2006, when acquisitions at firms such as Georgia Gulf and BASF caused company ranks to swell a bit. Overall chemical employment in the U.S. continued its long downward trend, while in Europe, earlier gains were generally reversed. The one standout was Japan, where employment at major firms increased.

Total hourly and salaried employment in the U.S. chemical industry declined 0.3% last year to 863,000. This contraction was much smaller than the 1.9% drop in total employment for manufacturing overall. But it continues the decline in chemical employment that has been going on steadily for more than a decade.

Similarly, all manufacturing lost 1.6% of its hourly production workers for a yearly average of 9.98 million, whereas the chemical industry reduced employment in this category by just 0.4% to 506,000. However, hourly wages declined 0.2% to $19.56 in the chemical industry but increased 2.7% to $17.26 for all manufacturing.

These resulted in productivity increases for the chemical industry and manufacturing overall. Productivity, or output per workhour, for all manufacturing increased 3.2% in 2007, a percentage slightly beat by the 3.3% improvement in chemical productivity. The largest increase, 9.4%, was in agricultural chemicals.

The increase in productivity combined with the modest drop in hourly wages provided the scenario for a welcome cut in unit labor costs. These costs declined by 3.3% in all manufacturing and by 3.4% in chemicals.

Net employment at the four major Canadian chemical firms dropped by 400 to 15,200 positions. The decline is largely due to a reduction of 500 positions at Nova Chemicals. Those jobs were transferred to its Ineos Nova styrenic polymers joint venture.

In Europe, after a spike in 2006, employment at 19 top companies fell by 17,100 positions to 566,500. This level of employment, however, is still much higher than the levels of the first half of this decade. The greatest reduction not due to divestment came from Linde. Having acquired BOC and an additional 13,300 staff in 2006, it reduced its payroll in 2007 by 5,000 employees.

The only European company to significantly expand staffing in 2007 was France’s Rhodia. Like many of Europe’s large chemical firms, it has not rebounded to the staffing levels of the later part of the 1990s.

In Japan, employment rose overall by 5% at the 12 firms tracked by C&EN.

Accounting for most of the increase is Mitsubishi Chemical, where staffing shot up more than 17% as a result of its merger with a pharmaceutical affiliate. Toray Industries placed second in terms of payroll increase. Headcount at the fibers, plastics, and textiles maker rose by 2,000 people, or 5%, compared with 2006.

DIC (formerly Dainippon Ink & Chemicals) was the only Japanese company to reduce headcount in 2007, as was the case in 2006. Other firms either increased their workforces or kept them stable.


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