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Talent Talk: Lots of Layoffs, but Relatively Few in Plastics

The diversity of the plastics industry has sheltered it from the massive layoffs we are seeing in other sectors of the US economy.

Paul Sturgeon

April 22, 2024

2 Min Read
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No-Mad/iStock via Getty Images

We all know that the past couple of years have not been the best for many plastics manufacturers. We have also written about how we see that changing in 2024 and beyond, although stubborn inflation and high interest rates remain as headwinds for the industry.

A bit of good news may be that the industry is performing better than overall US businesses when it comes to retaining a trained workforce. The anecdotal evidence for this is seen in the layoff announcements.

Not entirely immune to need for cuts.

I know, plastics businesses have not been immune to the need for cuts, but I haven’t seen anything like Tesla’s recent announcement that it’s cutting more than 10% of its global workforce, or more than 14,000 workers worldwide.

If you are thinking that plastics cuts across many industries, including the EV market, you are correct, but we are buffered from the brunt of the impact as Nike lays off 1,500, for example, or Apple lays off 600+ after abandoning its own electric car project.

Hardest-hit sectors.

Further, we are almost entirely shielded from the hardest-hit areas: Financial services, where Citi will cut 20,000; delivery services, with UPS eliminating 12,000 jobs; big tech, where Cisco will say goodbye to 4,000; and scores of other layoffs planned for 2024.

This is on top of big tech layoffs in 2023, which included Amazon (16,000), Alphabet (Google) laying off 12,000, Microsoft shedding 11,000, and Meta (Facebook) cutting 10,000.

Am I saying that everything is great right now within plastics manufacturing? No, but we can be grateful that our diversity has sheltered us from the massive downsizing we are seeing every week in other industries.

Better days ahead.

Areas such as food packaging, medical devices, consumer electronics, aviation, defense, and recycling have been a few examples of relative strength. Better days are ahead for plastics and employment within the industry, but as tough as the past year and a half have been, it could have been worse.

About the Author(s)

Paul Sturgeon

Paul Sturgeon is CEO of KLA Industries, a national search firm specializing in plastics, packaging, and polymer technology. If you have a topic you would like to see discussed, a company that is growing, or other ideas for this blog, e-mail Sturgeon at [email protected].

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