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Whether natural or synthetic, rubber is an essential raw material. More than half of all the rubber produced is used for tires and tubes for automobiles, trucks, and other vehicles; it is also used in making rain wear, shoes, rubber gloves, medical syringes, large storage containers, floor coverings, balls for sports, insulating materials, and many other products.
The rubber industry offers careers as varied as the products it produces. Rubber cutters and rubber-mill operators work hands on to produce rubber while sales and marketing professionals sell products to the public. Chemists and engineers devise new ways of processing rubber while industrial designers create new products. All of them and others are part of an industry that produces more than 27 million metric tons of rubber each year.
Manufacturing and sales of vehicle tires accounts for 60 percent of the rubber industry's business, making it sensitive to ups and downs in the automobile market. When fewer cars are being manufactured and sold, there is less need for workers who make tires. Forty percent of rubber manufacturing and sales is for rubber components supplied to the aerospace, appliance, medical, transportation, construction, electrical and electronic industries as well as general products such as industrial products, chemicals, consumer products, flooring, and metal products.
A segment of the rubber industry that has undergone dramatic growth in recent years is rubber footwear. According to a 2013 Market Research report, the U.S. rubber and plastics footwear manufacturing industry reported revenues of approximately $545.1 million in 2012. Despite the reported revenues, U.S. consumers purchased 19 percent of all the world's exported rubber and plastic footwear, valued at approximately $6.5 billion. China dominates the world market in the rubber and plastic footwear industry, with exports valued at $28 billion in 2009, the most recent data available, according to the 2012 industry analysis, "Trade Data Report: Export/Import Profile of the Global and U.S. Plastic Footwear."
Career growth in the rubber industry is projected to be somewhat limited in coming years due in part to increased automation in rubber manufacturing facilities and technological advances that are making rubber goods more durable and longer lasting. Companies operating within the rubber industry striving to maintain a strong market position must obtain and hold a share of the available business in all product areas. Because markets change continuously, a company's distribution network must be adaptable to keep pace, and continued expansion of various retail outlets that sell rubber products to consumers is crucial.
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