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North American aluminum demand growth outpaces US GDP growth

Aluminum Association preliminary estimates show an estimated 7.7 percent demand growth for the aluminum industry in the U.S. and Canada in 2021.

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The Aluminum Association, Arlington, Virginia, has released preliminary estimates as part of its monthly Aluminum Situation report that show demand growth for the aluminum industry in North America (U.S. and Canada) was estimated to be 7.7 percent in 2021. This outpaced the estimated 5.7 percent U.S. gross domestic product growth in the United States for the same year. Aluminum demand, which includes shipments by domestic producers plus imports, declined 11.4 percent between 2019 and 2020 during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the 26.3 billion pounds of estimated demand in 2021 is still below the 27.5 billion pounds of demand seen in 2019. 

The report also found that all major semifabricated, or mill, product categories saw increased year-over-year demand growth in 2021, led by extruded products (15.9 percent) and sheet and plate (14.4 percent). In total, mill product demand grew 13.5 percent year over year.

Aluminum exports (excluding scrap) to foreign countries declined 20.4 percent in 2021, while aluminum scrap exports increased 16 percent from the 2020 level. 

According to the report, net new orders for mill products remained above the baseline of 100 throughout 2021, which the association notes is the first year that has occurred since it reset the Index back in 2013.

Aluminum and aluminum products imported into North America (U.S. and Canada) grew by 21.3 percent year over year in 2021 amidst higher demand but are still nearly 25 percent below 2017 volumes, the report indicates.

“Taken together, this latest data shows an industry in strong recovery mode,” says Charles Johnson, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association. “Despite the lingering challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical issues and supply chain challenges, the U.S. aluminum industry shows signs of robust growth in a number of markets.”

The Aluminum Association notes that after a lull in capital expenditure in 2020, U.S. aluminum producers have announced more than $800 million in domestic investment over the past six months. This contributes to more than $4 billion invested by the industry over the past decade to capture demand growth for sustainable, recyclable products in the automotive, packaging, building and construction and other sectors. Strong trade enforcement efforts in targeted markets also have led to industry investment over the past several years, the association adds.

The Aluminum Situation report is one of more than two-dozen ongoing industry statistical reports developed exclusively by the Aluminum Association through surveys of aluminum producers, fabricators and recyclers. Subscribers to the Aluminum Association statistical reports have access to interactive, presentation-ready charts and graphs that can be manipulated directly through the association's website at www.aluminum.org. To learn more about the Aluminum Association’s statistical offerings or to subscribe, click here.