US & Global Economic Impact Analysis and Forecasts

Freedonia analysts and economists are sharing their insights on how major events are impacting different parts of the US and global economies.

Vaccine Mandates: Early Requirements Kick In, Questions About Enforcement Arise

So far, most industries that have had COVID-19 vaccine mandates kick in haven’t seen the kind of mass exodus of employees that some predicted. From NYC restaurants to healthcare facilities, government agencies, and police and fire departments, some employees have chosen to leave rather than get the vaccine. However, the impact has been more muted than initially expected, often representing a few percent of staff rather than 30-40% some surveys indicated.

Will that continue to be the case as President Biden’s planned Medicare rule ­– which requires all staff at skilled nursing facilities to be vaccinated – and as the broader mandate applying to employees of businesses with 100 or more employees kick in?

There are questions about how these rulings will be enforced, particularly in areas where vaccine resistance remains high even among those in local or government or law enforcement agencies. OSHA – tasked with the job ­­– is understaffed for enforcement, with only 862 inspectors to handle all regulatory actions the agency is responsible for as of early 2020.

However, it seems that many companies are interested in remaining in compliance. For many, there are benefits to putting a mandate in place. Companies and agencies that are able to get their vaccine numbers higher see reduced time off requests and fewer surprise shutdowns (for illness or quarantine), both of which  make staffing shifts challenging. Higher vaccine rates can also inspire increased confidence among customers and employees that the location is a safe place to be, even in person.  

Still, a number of companies continue to prefer carrots (incentives such as time off, cash bonuses, and prizes) over sticks (mandates). Some companies and agencies have explored a middle ground, placing an emphasis on frequent testing and mask mandates for those who do not get a vaccine, maintaining a level of protection while perhaps hoping that employees will find these alternatives inconvenient enough that they will get the vaccine instead.

This is something that will play out throughout the economy and Freedonia analysts will continue monitoring the effects.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.


Shortage of Vinyl Resins Affecting Construction & Medical Goods Industries

Amidst all the talk of product shortages and supply chain issues, there’s another factor that plays a key role here: that of the availability of the raw materials needed to make finished goods. No matter how the strong the demand for a particular product, firms are helpless to meet surging demand for goods without key raw materials. Outside of lumber and similar products, lack of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) resins is also causing havoc in a number of industries.

As this article indicates, strong demand for PVC had already affected the supply chain in 2020, and the winter storms that cut across Texas early in 2021 caused more difficulties. Plants that make PVC resins – as well as the refineries that make the feedstocks needed to produce to these resins – were forced to shut down due to a lack of electricity. In the meantime, demand for products made from PVC has continued to climb. For instance:

  • High levels of new home construction have boosted demand for PVC windows and doors, pipe, vinyl siding, and other building and construction products.
  • Strong shipments of medical goods (such as PPE) have promoted demand for vinyl films – often  specified because of their sterile properties.
  • Continuing need for ventilators and other related medical equipment has boosted use of PVC tubing.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Construction and Building Products as well as packaging-related topics such as Pouches, Converted Flexible Packaging, Medical Device Packaging, and Global Disposable Medical Supplies. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.


Face Mask News: Updates & Innovations

Face masks remain a key component of ending the pandemic, even as vaccinations increase. Here are a few notes on recent updates from mask suppliers or demand trends:

  • The amount of waste being generated by the large amounts of disposable personal protective equipment continues to be a problem. Nexe Innovations is one company seeking a solution. The company is developing a mask that is fully industrially compostable and expects to have a functional prototype available this year.
  • Backing off an initial plan to do a mass distribution of face masks throughout the country, the Biden administration has settled on a more targeted approach, providing 25 million masks to underserved populations via distributions at more than 1,300 community health centers and 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens. Under this plan, the administration will send reusable, well-fitted cloth masks in adult and child sizes.
  • The first set of standards for nonmedical single-use and reusable face masks have been released. The new standard from ASTM International is ASTM F3502, and compliant masks will feature a label that they meet those standards. Compliant masks must meet specified design criteria (e.g., nonirritating materials, no vents or valves, snug fit, minimize air flow at perimeter, comfortable for long wear), performance criteria (e.g., ability to filter particles as small as 0.3 microns, durability over time if it is reusable), test methods, labelling, and user information (how to wear it properly and how to clean it if it is reusable).

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including Global Disposable Masks & Respirators,Global Industrial & Institutional Cleaning Chemicals, Global Industrial & Institutional Disinfectants & Sanitizers, Surface Disinfectant Wipes, and Global Disposable Medical Gloves. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19      Healthcare & Life Sciences    

PPE Challenges & Opportunities Continue as 2020 Comes to a Close

A few highlights of news and analysis in the personal protective equipment industry:

  • Some “temporary” business adaptations became permanent. Cadillac Products, a film extruder and converter that had been focused on the automotive industry, began making protective gowns in the spring of 2020. Since then, the company decided to make this a part of its permanent business operations, not only helping establish a US production base for these gowns but also diversifying Cadillac Products’ customer base. The company expects to offer a full line of medical gowns, expanding beyond Level 3 types, by February 2021. It won’t be the only company to find the PPE market profitable and remain there.
  • COVID-19 outbreaks in manufacturing plants still hurt deliveries. In November, Top Glove Corporation of Malaysia – a major global supplier of rubber gloves – announced that it would have to close some of its 36 gloves factories for a few weeks after thousands of its workers tested positive for the coronavirus. Although the company noted that it will shift orders to some unaffected factories, delivery of existing orders could be delayed by as long as four weeks, with new orders pushed even further back. Such outbreaks are still common, so buyers of PPE still need to keep their options open and their supply chains diversified, buying in bulk or in advance whenever possible. The need for refilled national and local stockpiles of gloves and other emergency equipment remains.
  • Single-use PPE leads to a lot of w Some creative entrepreneurs are coming up with new ideas to keep discarded PPE items from landfills or from showing up elsewhere as litter. For instance, Binesh Desai – known as the “Recycle Man of India” – has developed a brick product made with discarded nonwoven masks, gowns, and other PPE. Expect other eco-minded innovators to create similar offerings as well.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including Global Disposable Medical Gloves: COVID-19 Impact Analysis, Global Disposable Masks & Respirators: COVID-19 Impact Analysis, Global Spunbond Nonwovens: COVID-19 Impact Analysis, Global Meltblown Nonwovens: COVID-19 Impact Analysis, Global Nonwovens, US Nonwovens, US Medical Nonwovens, and Global Disposable Medical Supplies. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19      Healthcare & Life Sciences      Packaging    

A Promising Start to the Holiday Season: A COVID-19 Vaccine

November 17, 2020 - Stepping in to give the world a collective shot in the arm, Pfizer announced this week that it and BioNTech have developed a vaccine candidate that has a 90% efficacy rate. However, in keeping with the tone that is 2020, the good news did not last long.

The vaccine requires super-cold refrigeration equipment, as it must be kept at negative 70 degrees Celsius (or negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit). This level of chill is not found in many hospitals and is currently a logistical nightmare for the drug maker, hospitals, and state and local governments that need to coordinate administering the vaccine. Pfizer has developed a storage container that uses dry ice to keep the vaccine at the necessary temperature for up to 10 days, and these containers can be refilled to extend the overall storage time. In addition, the vaccine can be stored at conventional refrigerator temperatures for 5 days.

Information on Moderna’s vaccine was announced on November 16. This vaccine, which was also highly effective (94.5%), can be kept at -20 degrees Celsius. This is a level that other vaccines need for storage, so it requires less new infrastructure. Additionally, Moderna’s version can be kept in a conventional refrigerator for 30 days.

Still, both versions will be needed for the roll-out ultimately so that as many vaccine doses can be made available as quickly as possible. These challenges also create opportunities, especially for manufacturers of super-cold storage equipment such as K2 Scientific, Panasonic, and Thermo Fisher Scientific. While the need for more cold storage equipment is significant around the world, the biggest opportunities these companies have is in low- and  middle-income nations that have non-existent or extremely limited cold-storage capabilities.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including Commercial Refrigeration Equipment and Global Commercial Refrigeration Equipment (coming soon). Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.