In 2011, employment in the U.S. chemical industry increased by a slim 0.2% to 788,000, according to the Department of Labor. This move into positive territory, though slight, contrasts with a 2.1% decrease in the workforce in 2010. But even if the U.S. economy came roaring back to life, it would be difficult to counteract a decadelong erosion of the chemical workforce, which has been eaten away at a rate of almost 2% per year.
Although hiring was incrementally positive for the U.S. chemical industry as a whole, readers of C&EN will not be surprised to learn that the pharmaceutical industry shed 4,000 workers in 2011 after losing 7,000 jobs in 2010. Consolidation and budget cutting continue to affect the industry as the lingering effects of acquisitions, such as Merck & Co.’s 2009 purchase of Schering-Plough, shake out. Subsequent deals, including Sanofi’s purchase of the biotech drug firm Genzyme, will likely take a toll on pharmaceutical employment.I think it's fascinating that pharmaceutical employment peaked in 2007; sometimes I wonder if pharmaceutical chemist employment peaked in 2003 or 2004, but no one is ever going to release those numbers. It's also interesting to note that, for the decade, the US pharmaceutical industry was the one bright spot for the 2001-2011 decade, only losing 0.4% of positions, as opposed to the -1.9% for the entire chemical manufacturing sector.