If something could go wrong for the chemical industry last year, it did. Around the world, declining economies took their toll on the global chemical business. Demand for chemicals declined because of lackluster end-use markets. Prices in many areas of the world raced but did not catch up with increased costs. These two factors alone produced a big downturn in earnings from already poor results during the first half of the year before. If that werent enough, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, caused further consternation and uncertainty in the U.S. and beyond, driving the industry down even more. When the year was over, it was apparent that 2001 had contributed to one of the worst downturns in the chemical industry in decades.
The data included in this years Facts & Figures for the Chemical Industry spotlight just how bad it was for chemical businesses worldwide.
The collection of the vast amounts of information and statistics from around the world that make up this special report has largely been the work of Assistant Managing Editor Michael McCoy, Senior Correspondent Marc S. Reisch, and Associate Editor Alexander H. Tullo (Northeast News Bureau); Editor-at-Large Michael Heylin (Washington); Senior Correspondent Patricia L. Short (London); Houston Bureau Head Ann M. Thayer; and Asia-Pacific Bureau Head Jean-François Tremblay (Hong Kong); coordinated by Senior Correspondent William J. Storck (Northeast News Bureau).
Note: The following links are available in Adobe PDF format.
Sales fell and earnings plummeted at major chemical companies, driving down profitability ratios and practically all other measures of financial performance. Spending on research and development and on new plants and equipment fell victim to the worsening finances.
Total U.S. chemical production was down slightly from 2000, but the modest drop masked big declines in commodity sectors such as basic organic chemicals, inorganic chemicals, and synthetic materials, which includes plastics and synthetic fibers.
As production dropped, so did the number of plant workers. And despite companies saying they were cutting across the board, the decline in production workers was almost twice that of total industry employment. The upside: Worker productivity improved.
Canadas chemical industry followed the downward path of the U.S. In Europe, chemical producers also ran up against declining fundamentals. In the Asia-Pacific region, most country chemical industries were down for the year, Japan being the worst. Chinas industry, however, measured by production, improved over 2000.
Facts & Figures For The Chemical Industry