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US Plastics Machinery Shipments Decline Almost 20% Year-on-Year

Article-US Plastics Machinery Shipments Decline Almost 20% Year-on-Year

Image courtesy of Plastics Industry Association Chart showing plastics machinery shipments from Q1 2021 to Q1 2023
Single-screw extruders are a rare bright spot in survey, with shipments surging just over 40%.

Shipments of primary plastics machinery in North America declined 4.1% in Q2 2023 compared with the previous quarter and 19.8% from the same period in 2022, according to the Plastics Industry Association's Committee on Equipment Statistics (CES). The initial estimate for the second quarter of 2023 indicates a shipment value of $331.6 million.

Bucking the trend, shipments of single-screw extruders surged 39.3% in a quarter-over-quarter (Q/Q) analysis and exhibited an even more remarkable year-over-year (Y/Y increase of 40.9%, according to CES. By contrast, shipments of twin-screw extruders declined 15.0% Q/Q and 11.2% Y/Y.

Injection molding machinery shipments declined 6.1% Q/Q, and 23.6% Y/Y. 

Subdued manufacturing landscape

Noting that the manufacturing sector is the main customer of the plastics industry, PLASTIC’s Chief Economist Perc Pineda, PhD, commented: “Although the US economy exhibited resilience in the first half of 2023, the decline in plastics machinery shipments signifies a subdued manufacturing landscape. The upswing in personal consumption expenditures (PCE) that followed the conclusion of the COVID-19 recession reached its peak in the first quarter of 2021, subsequently maintaining a consistent trajectory. Interestingly, PCE on services commenced its recovery at a slower pace post-COVID-19 recession, and this upward trend has persevered, playing a pivotal role in driving the economic expansion in the first half of the year," said Pineda.

Plastics machinery suppliers expressed some optimism that business would improve in the months ahead. In the most recent quarterly CES survey gauging their outlook on market conditions and equipment expectations, the percentage of participants expecting conditions to either remain the same or improve in the next 12 months rose to 46.0%.

Plastics machinery exports rise

During the second quarter, US exports of plastics machinery saw a notable uptick of 10.2%, reaching a total value of $252.8 million, reports the CES. The primary export destinations for US plastics machinery, Mexico and Canada, collectively received exports worth $126.4 million, accounting for 50% of all US plastics machinery exports. Imports, valued at $458.6 million, declined 10.5%. As a result, the trade deficit in plastics equipment shrank by 32.0%. It now stands at $205.8 million.

"As the economy readjusts, the shift between goods and services consumption is underway. However, sustaining a robust economic expansion, given a 5.5% benchmark interest rate or possibly higher in 2023, appears unlikely,” said Pineda. “The reliance on household debt for consumption raises concerns, particularly with the resurgence of student loan payments in September. This has the potential to adversely affect consumer spending and subsequently impact the plastics industry. Global economic conditions and structural limitations in the US, such as labor supply, also play pivotal roles.”

Pineda also noted that the German recession, European Union slowdown, and China’s economic deceleration are poised to influence the US economy's output, including the plastics sector.

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