Our Friday data slice’n’dice look at the latest edition of County Business Patterns has been looking at the converting industries. As 2020 began, there were 1,086 establishments in NAICS 322211 (Corrugated and Solid Fiber Box Manufacturing). This category saw a net decrease of 20% since 2010.

The Bureau of the Census definition for this business classification:

This U.S. industry comprises establishments primarily engaged in laminating purchased paper or paperboard into corrugated or solid fiber boxes and related products, such as pads, partitions, pallets, and corrugated paper without manufacturing paperboard. These boxes are generally used for shipping.

In this category, software prototyping of packaging such as boxes results in innovative designs, which can optimize the logistics of transporting packages, especially from overseas manufacturers. This has only accelerated since, but environmental concerns are becoming more important in box conversion. These data predate the COVID pandemic, but even in the mid-2010s, ecommerce has been driving demand for more and newer types of corrugated boxes. At the same time, we have also seen a not inconsiderable amount of consolidation in this sector. Corrugated has also been witnessing no small amount of digital transition; short-run and customized corrugated packaging has been on the rise and it’s the most prominent area of packaging that has been seized on by digital printing equipment manufacturers.

Establishments in this category are larger than we have seen in the printing and publishing industries. Small paperboard manufacturers (1 to 9 employees) account for only 16% of all establishments, while large manufacturers (50+ employees) account for just about half (51%).

These counts are based on data from the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns. Every other week, we update these data series with the latest figures. These counts are broken down by printing business classification (based on NAICS, the North American Industrial Classification System).

Next up, we’ll continue through the converting NAICS categories:

  • 322212 Folding Paperboard Box Manufacturing
  • 322219 Other Paperboard Container Manufacturing
  • 32222 Paper Bag and Coated and Treated Paper Manufacturing
  • 32223 Stationery Product Manufacturing
  • 32229 Other Converted Paper Product Manufacturing
  • 322291 Sanitary Paper Product Manufacturing
  • 322299 All Other Converted Paper Product Manufacturing

To clarify what is included in the 2020 CBP, establishment counts represent the number of locations with paid employees at any time during the year. If an establishment existed at any point during the year, it would be included in the CBP count of the number of establishments for 2020 CBP. Thus, businesses lost during the COVID pandemic won’t be accounted for until the 2021 CBP.

These data, and the overarching year-to-year trends, like other demographic data, can be used not only for business planning and forecasting, but also sales and marketing resource allocation.

This Macro Moment…

Yesterday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released its third estimate of Q4 2022 gross domestic product (GDP):

Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to the “third” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third quarter, real GDP increased 3.2 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “second” estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the increase in real GDP was 2.7 percent. The revision primarily reflected downward revisions to exports and consumer spending (refer to "Updates to GDP"). Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, were revised down.

A bit disappointing, but not horrible. As for Q1 2023, forecasts suggest no one has any idea. Via Calculated Risk, the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow is running with the bulls at 3.2%, Goldman is a bit behind expecting 2.4%, and BoA is downright bearish at 0.8%. The BEA’s advance estimate will be released April 27.