In 2020, the mechanical industries recorded a turnover of 120 billion euros, down 10.8% compared to 2019 (compared to 1.7% in 2019). Activity in 2020, which has been heavily impacted by the health crisis, is expected to recover in 2021.
Compared to the French GDP, which fell by 8.2% in 2020, the decline recorded by the mechanical industries is therefore more marked. This overall decline affects both exports (-12%) and the internal market (-10%).
Variable changes depending on the sector
The four business sectors that structure the mechanical industries saw their turnover fall in 2020:
Production equipment and mechanical equipment (-8.5%): with a sharper decline in handling equipment, machine tools and printing machines.
Integrated components and subsets (-9.7%): with more affected sectors such as faucets, gears and transmissions and relatively more spared sectors such as pumps and compressors.
Mechanical parts from the subcontracting sector (-19.6%): the degradation of the automobile and aeronautics, the main markets for mechanics, explains in large part this severe drop in the activity of foundry companies, forging, detaching, cutting and stamping and processing and coating metals.
Consumer products (-7%): this decline mainly affects cutlery, tools and other household items, impacted by the slowdown in world trade.
A general slowdown in exports
With a direct export turnover of 46.4 billion euros, French mechanics remains 6th in the world behind China, the United States, Japan, Germany and Italy.
The decline in its exports (-12%) 2020 was primarily due to the decline in deliveries to Germany (-10.8%) which remains by far its largest client country with 15% of its exports. Brexit also played a significant role and led to a sharp contraction in French shipments to the UK in 2020 (-20.2%). More broadly, exports to EU member countries, which account for 51.5% of French mechanical exports, fell by 10.7% in 2020.
Outside the European Union, exports fell by 19.2% to the United States, which remains the second largest customer of French mechanics in 2020. Sales to Asia-Oceania fell by 5.7% to 14.1% of total exports in 2020. Deliveries to China, the seventh largest customer of French mechanics, are down 2.5% in 2020. Finally, exports fell significantly to Africa (-14.9%), the Middle East (-14.5%) America (-32.8%).
The export rate of French mechanics thus rises from 42.8% in 2019 to 38.7% in 2020 with an overall trade deficit of 12.3 billion euros in 2020. Numbers down slightly
The largest industrial employer in France (approximately 20%), the mechanical industries recorded a 2.3% decrease in its workforce, from 616,430 to 602,523 employees. This relatively small decline in light of the economic situation is due to the desire of industrial mechanics to retain their skills while waiting for the recovery.
Outlook: Signs of improvement as early as 2021
Mechanical industries activity has evolved in a very negative global economic environment in 2020, marked by a sharp decline in investment from the client sectors. Hard hit in the first half of 2020 due to containment, however, activity began to recover in the second half of 2020, although the volume of order books is still considered insufficient at the end of 2020.
Investment spending in the industry (forecast of 6% in 2021) also bodes well for a resumption of mechanical activity. All client sectors in France are expected to increase their investments in 2021 with the exception of the aeronautics sector, for which productive investment is expected to remain limited.
The global economy is expected to return to growth of 6% in volume terms in 2021. Other leverage is the Plan France Relance, whose positive effects on the dynamism of industrial activity are beginning to be measured.
There are still the high uncertainties related to the shortage of raw materials, the lengthening of supply time and price increases that could dampen the scale of the recovery in 2021.
Overall, the forecast for 2021 is for a recovery in mechanical industries, between 6 and 9% in 2021.
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