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Talent Talk: Salary Inflation for Plastics Professionals on the Horizon

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There is currently a supply-and-demand imbalance in many parts of the economy, including in the labor pool of experienced plastics professionals.

Sometimes it's great to have a weather forecast. Other times you can see that a storm is coming just by looking out the window. For what I am about to tell you, I do not have any radars, I do not know where the high- and low-pressure areas are, or if there is moisture coming up from the Gulf. What I do have is a good window to what is happening in today’s labor market for experienced plastics professionals.

To set up the scenario, consider this: In combating the pandemic, the federal government has — or soon will have — pumped about $5.3 trillion into the economy. It is mind-boggling to consider how much money that is. That $5.3 trillion could buy 100% of Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, the three largest US companies.

$5.3 trillion is more than half of the Dow Jones market capitalization. By the way, the Dow Jones index is up 75% from one year ago, as we begin to consider where that money is going. In Pinellas County FL, where I am, housing prices are up 17% year over year. I will leave the longer-term impacts of this for others, but it is also significant for the manufacturing sector of the US economy.

The economy was picking up even without all the stimulus, but when you add that to the equation you begin to see an imbalance in supply and demand for stocks, housing, polypropylene, and highly in-demand plastics professionals. With the professional workforce you have one more variable to add to the equation, which is that baby boomers will continue to exit the workforce in greater numbers than the current generation can replace for another 10 years or so.

The bottom line? We are seeing companies having to pay up for openings like plant managers, polymer scientists, engineers, business development roles, and procurement managers, just to name a few. While these new hires may be a fraction of a company’s overall payroll, they are causing internal pay inequities that will have to be addressed, sooner rather than later. Barring something else we cannot foresee, this supply-and-demand imbalance can only be resolved in one way — salaries will increase.


About the author

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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