In the face of rising oil prices and energy costs in 2008, the chemical industry attempted to manage the economic downturn by outsourcing to emerging markets. US chemical companies, such as DuPont, actually experienced sales growth in the first quarter of 2008 when compared with the same time period the year before, with around 62 percent of their sales coming from sales to other nations.
When the US economy worsened in the third and fourth quarters of 2008, the chemical industry also suffered setbacks. Basic organic chemicals decreased the most in terms of chemical production, dropping 13.4 percent from 2007. Ethylene and propylene also suffered significantly not only as a result of the economy, but because hurricane damage along the Gulf Coast greatly reduced regional demand. By December of 2008, several large companies were making gargantuan employment cuts, with some companies eliminating as much as 11 percent of their workforce.
The American Chemistry Council (ACC) reported overall improvement in the U.S. chemical industry for Q1 2010, although unemployment rates remain an issue. Inventories for producers and companies remain lean, although an increase in demand can be noted when compared with Q1 2009. Global chemical output has also improved, and is expected to stay on track as the rest of the economy continues to recover.