Issue Date: July 2, 2012
Consolidation Muddies Jobs Picture
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Economists say employment is a trailing indicator of economic growth. The 2011 jobs figures in this year's Facts & Figures report come after two years of post-recession growth in chemical company profits. They show a few signs that firms have done some hiring, though the activity was barely enough to budge the needle on total U.S. chemical employment.
Chemical employers, like those in most industries, are slow to hire back workers after a downturn. Hiring managers, unable to accurately predict demand for their firms’ products, make the most of contract and part-time workers rather than bringing on additional full-time employees. Once growth appears ensured, hiring tends to pick up.
In 2011, employment in the U.S. chemical industry increased by a slim 0.2% to 788,000, according to the Department of Labor. This move into positive territory, though slight, contrasts with a 2.1% decrease in the workforce in 2010. But even if the U.S. economy came roaring back to life, it would be difficult to counteract a decadelong erosion of the chemical workforce, which has been eaten away at a rate of almost 2% per year.
Although hiring was incrementally positive for the U.S. chemical industry as a whole, readers of C&EN will not be surprised to learn that the pharmaceutical industry shed 4,000 workers in 2011 after losing 7,000 jobs in 2010. Consolidation and budget cutting continue to affect the industry as the lingering effects of acquisitions, such as Merck & Co.’s 2009 purchase of Schering-Plough, shake out. Subsequent deals, including Sanofi’s purchase of the biotech drug firm Genzyme, will likely take a toll on pharmaceutical employment.
On a company basis, total employment at U.S. and European firms tracked by C&EN grew compared with 2010; only Cytec Industries, Kemira, and Praxair cut back. But of the 13,500 additional workers brought on by the U.S. firms, 10,000 of them went to work for DuPont. It is likely that most of them came from DuPont’s 2011 acquisition of Danish life sciences firm Danisco.
Similarly, the record employment numbers posted by European firms are likely because of acquisitions. In 2011, Solvay acquired Rhodia, Clariant bought Süd-Chemie, and Lonza purchased U.S.-based Arch Chemicals. The jobs count for the three acquiring firms leapt by a combined 23,000. In total, the 16 European firms tracked by C&EN raised employment by 36,400 workers compared with 2010. European companies that added workers to their ongoing operations included Air Liquide, AkzoNobel, Arkema, BASF, Lanxess, and Linde.
In Japan, chemical employment remained essentially flat from 2009 through 2011. Last year, the 12 Japanese firms tracked by C&EN added only 600 workers to their payrolls.
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