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Talent Talk: Closing the Page on 2023

It wasn’t all bad news — new factories were built at a record pace in 2023 — and there is every reason to look forward to 2024.

Paul Sturgeon

December 18, 2023

2 Min Read
2024 with upward arrow
MicroStockHub/iStock via Getty Images

As a tumultuous 2023 winds down for the plastics industry, now is a good time for a final big picture look back at the major trends and factors that brought us to this point in the labor markets, and perhaps a peek at where we are headed in 2024.

We spent much of the early part of the year continuing to marvel at labor markets not seen since the end of WWII. After raising interest rates seven times in 2022, the Federal Reserve would have preferred to be finished. Mostly because of the stubborn labor markets, though, it had to raise them four more times through July 2023.

For all of 2023 the manufacturing sector and the plastics industry had to overcome high interest rates, soaring inflation, and difficulty in finding skilled workers. Like Cerberus, the three-headed dog of Greek mythology, these three factors seemed to block any real opportunity for progress out of what has been a solid year of negative growth.

Job openings plummet

As we discussed last week, the Fed finally saw clear evidence that its strategy (eventually) was beginning to work, with job openings in October plummeting by 617,000 from the previous month. Combined with milder inflation numbers, the Fed for the first time is beginning to whisper about rate cuts as early as the second quarter of 2024.

There are many factors that point to a positive 2024. We have documented the tremendous uptick in manufacturing construction. We built new factories at a record pace in 2023. Re-shoring is a positive factor, as well. And for the plastics industry, could NPE2024 have come at a better time?

C suite overwhelmingly anticipates increased revenue in 2024

Advisory and accounting firm Wipfli LLP recently surveyed over 330 director and C-level executives in the manufacturing sector. A whopping 88% of the respondents anticipate increased revenue in 2024. The number-one challenge those executives identified was securing and retaining skilled personnel. Sounds like Talent Talk will still have something to write about next year!

It has been fun trying to provide some news and analysis on issues affecting the plastics industry workforce this year, and I hope you have enjoyed reading some of it. Happiest of holidays for our industry, and we will see you in the New Year.

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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