US Chemical Producers Express Optimism about Economy

Latest Findings from AAC's Chemical Manufacturing Economic Sentiment Index

23.05.2024 - US chemical manufacturers report their company’s activity level overall (e.g., sales, production, output) improved in the first quarter of 2024, according to the latest findings from American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Chemical Manufacturing Economic Sentiment Index (ESI). While chemical manufacturers’ sentiment regarding the state of the global economy remained negative in Q1, their assessment of the US economy improved.

“Concerns about costs and regulations cast a shadow over positive reports from companies that orders have picked up,” said Emily Sanchez, director of Economics & Data Analytics at the ACC. “While there has been some improvement regarding costs, the survey indicates that regulatory pressures continue to be a big worry for companies,” Sanchez added.

Demand Picked Up

Following a drop off in the fourth quarter of 2023, new orders for US chemicals recovered strongly in the first quarter of 2024. In welcome news orders were up for both domestic orders and exports. Over the first quarter of 2024, more than half (57%) of chemical manufacturers reported the volume of new orders had increased. Looking ahead six months, chemical manufacturers anticipate gains in the volume of both domestic and foreign orders.

Production Costs Mixed Bag

Energy costs (for fuel and power) have eased since an uptick in the third quarter of 2023 and the first quarter of 2024 ESI reading of -9.3 indicated declines overall. Unfortunately, transportation and input/raw materials costs rose over Q1 following declines every quarter in 2023. And labor costs continued to build following gains every quarter in 2023.

Regulatory Concerns Hit New High

In a troubling trend, many manufacturers (58%) reported their regulatory burden grew in Q1 and even more (67%) expect it to rise further in the coming six months. These findings track with an earlier regulatory survey ACC conducted that found the regulatory burden for most companies increased across all levels of government, which has hurt their ability to support national priorities and expand production.

Companies said they expect both the US and global economy to improve over the coming six months. And chemical manufacturers expect demand to strengthen and their own company’s activity levels to accelerate over the first half of this year.

The ESI provides quarterly insights from chemical companies engaged in nearly every aspect of the manufacturing sector and the US economy. This latest report builds on over five quarters of data from the first quarter of 2023 to the first quarter of 2024 and marks a shift in how companies feel about the economy.

“For the first time since we started conducting the survey, companies are signaling optimism about economic conditions,” said Sanchez. “That’s probably because there has been a significant shift toward improved customer demand and increased production output. Addressing the cost and regulatory challenges will be key to sustaining this optimism and positive trend.”


The complete findings can be accessed here.


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