In 2012, the overall U.S. manufacturing sector saw a modest 1.6% increase in jobs, or 193,000 positions. The uptick did not reach the chemical industry, however, where payrolls were flat overall. And revised statistics from the Department of Labor show that chemical employment decreased by 3,000 workers in 2011 compared with 2010.
The number of employees at some firms did increase notably in the U.S. as well as in Europe and Japan, but the growth was driven by acquisitions rather than by overall job expansion. For example, Eastman Chemical picked up 3,400 workers when it acquired Solutia. Similarly, Cabot’s purchase of Norit and Cytec Industries’ deal to take over Umeco added to employee counts at those firms.
In Europe, Linde added the largest number of workers. Of Linde’s 11,600 new hires, more than 10,800 came through its acquisition of the U.S. home health care business Lincare. In contrast, several European firms trimmed staff, including AkzoNobel, Arkema, BASF, Bayer, Clariant, Kemira, Lonza, Merck, and Wacker Chemie.
Japanese chemical firms tracked by C&EN increased employment by nearly 3% in 2012. That figure reflects in large part moves outside Japan. Asahi Kasei, for example, grew by 3,000 when it bought U.S. medical device maker Zoll and expanded chemical operations in Thailand. Japan’s most profitable chemical firm, Shin-Etsu Chemical, acquired a majority stake in a domestic vinyl producer and also expanded operations in China and Vietnam. Overall, the company brought in 1,500 workers.
The chemical industry, which spent most of the 2000s boosting productivity, is now worried about slow global economic growth and is reluctant to hire. Still, in the U.S., the jobs climate has been more stable recently than during the past decade, which saw an average 1.7% yearly decrease in chemical employment.
Meanwhile, the global pharmaceutical industry continued to lay off workers last year, including in R&D positions. Job cuts were announced at AstraZeneca, Novartis, Takeda Pharmaceutical, Johnson & Johnson, Human Genome Sciences, and Sanofi. Pink-slip deliveries can be difficult to track, however, and official U.S. statistics show that pharma employment was unchanged in 2012.