The Whole Paint & Coatings Enchilada

While often overlooked or invisible, paint and coatings are indispensable products. Coatings not only preserve our cars and homes, they preserve the bridges we drive across and the tunnels through which we travel; and they save energy by keeping buildings cooler, among serving many other purposes. The paint and coatings industry is not only integral to providing products that sustain modern daily life, but also provides jobs for thousands of employees, and end-use customers.

Paint and coatings are an important and dynamic part of our nation’s economy, and plays a key role in creating products that help preserve and protect most everything, from ordinary objects to our most important infrastructure. Aside from providing aesthetic appeal, paints/coatings act as a protective barrier to extend the useful life of the surfaces and substrates to which they are applied.

In the U.S.

Practically every manufactured thing has a coating, and the “value added” by coatings to virtually every product made to enhance its performance or lifespan is extraordinary.

But what are coatings?

When we talk about paint and coatings, we are not referring solely to paint used to cover walls in the home. Enamels, primers, undercoats, stains, varnishes, aerosol paint, caulks, sealants and adhesives are all coatings. The U.S. paint and coatings industry includes manufacturers, raw materials suppliers, distributors and applicators. Raw materials for paints and coatings are derived not only from fossil fuels and minerals, but also from natural products, such as clays, tree saps and vegetable oils. Petrochemicals are still among the most critical raw material, and the industry is seriously affected by oil shortages and price fluctuations.

Overall, the U.S. paint and coatings industry employs a total of 278,000 workers.1 Within that greater number, the manufacture of paint and coatings sector has 39,000 workers.2 manufacturing facilities are in urban areas like Chicago, Cleveland and Louisville, as well as in Northern New Jersey, throughout California, Florida, and Washington State.

However, it is important to note that the manufacture of integral paints/coatings feeds not only the health of jobs related to the sale of paints and coatings — paint and wall covering contractors, as well as retail establishments — but also those in product manufacturing markets that use those paints and coatings: the auto industry, aerospace, paper, machinery, home appliances, electronics, wood furniture, and metal containers, among the universe of other applications.

And, more and more often, a thin film of coating is being used to replace another material such as a plastic laminate or high-performance architectural material.

The $28 billion U.S. paint and coatings manufacturing sector is made up of approximately 1,000 companies operating nearly 1,300 locations.3 The top 10 paint makers are $500 million plus in annual sales and represent approximately 74 percent of the U.S. market. The next largest paint companies, are $100 million plus, and represent about 10 percent of the market. The remaining paint companies compete for the balance of the market. Although many of the larger companies are publicly traded, many — if not most — of the remaining smaller manufacturing companies are privately held and/or family businesses.

The U.S. market accounts for just under 20 percent of $149 billion global paint and coatings shipments value.4 The coatings industry also contributes in a significant way to the U.S. economy by exporting over $2.5 billion in coatings product, while generating a substantial trade surplus of $1.5 billion.5

Types of Coatings

To fully understand what kinds of coatings make up the industry’s markets, there are types three distinct categories.6

Architectural Coatings

are used for decoration and general maintenance of residential, commercial, institutional and industrial buildings. They include both interior and exterior paints, are either water-based or solvent-based, and are used mostly by professional painters and Do-It-Yourselfers. Architectural coatings shipments, representing more than half of the volume of paint sold in the United States, reached $11.2 billion in 2015, the highest value within the paint and coatings industry — an uptick of 10 percent over 2014. It is estimated that approximately 90 percent of all architectural coatings are now water-based, the remainder of which are considered solvent-based.7 The increase in water borne products is in response to consumer demands for easier application, while being environmentally friendly.

Industrial Coatings,

or coatings that are factory-applied to manufactured goods as part of the production process, are also known as original equipment manufacture, or OEM Coatings. They include finishes for automobiles, buses, transportation equipment, appliances, wood and non-wood furniture, metal building products, metal container and closure finishes, and paper. From this non-exhaustive list, you can see that a host of independent and diverse industries depend on coatings, especially OEM coatings, for their production. OEM Coatings represent the second largest segment of industry with product shipments of $7.8 billion in 2015, up by 12 percent over the previous year.

Special Purpose Coatings

simply serve a special purpose and include marine paints, high performance maintenance coatings, automotive refinish paints, traffic and highway markings and aerosol paints. Some special purpose coatings include roof coatings, multicolor paints, metallic paints and spray paint. Specialty coatings like marine coatings used on Navy ships are designed to be 1) anti-corrosive — to maintain the integrity of ships’ surfaces, and 2) anti-fouling — to keep living organisms from building up on ships, which could adversely affect critical performance characteristics, like speed. In 2015, Special Purpose Coatings reached a high of $5.6 billion in product shipments, growing at 42 percent over 2010.

Industry by the Numbers: National Overview

The following statistics highlight the significant contributions the industry makes to the U.S. economy and the people employed by the industry.

Four sectors make up the paint and coatings industry:

  • painting and wall covering contractors;
  • paint and coating manufacturing;
  • paint, varnish, and supplies merchant wholesalers; and
  • paint and wallpaper retail stores.

The U.S. paint and coatings industry employed 278,300 workers in 2014, adding more than 10,000 jobs from the prior year.

The U.S. paint and coatings industry workforce earned an average wage of $45,800 in 2014, an uptick of 1.6 percent from 2013, adjusted for inflation. (This includes paint professionals – applicators).

Within the overall industry, paint and coating manufacturing posted the highest average wage at $68,700 in 2014.

The U.S. paint and coatings industry had nearly 45,000 establishments in 2014 including professional application companies, manufacturers, distributors and retail centers.

The payroll for the U.S. paint and coatings industry totaled $12.7 billion in 2014. Industry payroll rose by 5.5 percent between 2013 and 2014, compared to an increase of less than 4 percent for the entire private sector, adjusted for inflation.

Industry by the Numbers: State Overview

The paint and coatings industry has a presence in every U.S. state, adding value to state economies for employment and trade. The following statistics underscore that vital role.

  • California ranked first in the nation by paint and coatings industry employment with 36,600 workers in 2014;
  • Texas ranked second with 25,600 paint and coatings jobs.
  • Florida was 3rd with 19,800 paint and coatings manufacturer jobs; and
  • New York and Ohio rounded out the top five leading states by paint and coatings industry employment, with 14,200 and 12,900 jobs, respectively.

The highest paid paint and coatings industry wages were those in

  • Ohio, where the annual average wage for the state’s paint and coatings industry workforce (12,923) was $60,900 in 2014.
  • Minnesota’s 4,972 paint and coatings industry workers received the second highest annual average wages at $60,600.
  • California was the leading state by paint and coatings industry payroll, at $1.5 billion in 2014.
  • Texas, Ohio, Illinois, and New York completed the list of top five states in paint and coatings industry payroll in 2014.

See how the states rank in terms of industry employment, wages, payroll, number of establishments, and exports at

This is an Industry Primer from

The American Coatings Association (ACA), which is a voluntary, nonprofit trade association working to advance the needs of the paint and coatings industry and the professionals who work in it. The organization represents paint and coatings manufacturers, raw materials suppliers, distributors, and technical professionals. ACA serves as an advocate and ally for members on legislative, regulatory and judicial issues, and provides forums for the advancement and promotion of the industry through educational and professional development services.


For more information on the paint and coatings industry, visit ACA’s web site at; or contact ACA’s Vice President of Government Affairs Heidi McAuliffe at, or (202) 719-3686.

  1. Based on 2014 data gathered from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages using the following NAICS codes: 238320 Painting and Wall Covering Contractors; 325510 Paint and Coating Manufacturing; 424950 Paint, Varnish, and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers; and 444120 Paint and Wallpaper Stores
  2. Based on 2014 data gathered from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages
  3. U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories, & Orders (M3) and Annual Survey of Manufacturers
  4. The ChemQuest Group
  5. Trade data derived from U.S. Bureau of the Census data and are reported on a Census or Customs basis
  6. These three major categories do not include miscellaneous paint products that comprise the remainder of the paint and coatings industry shipments


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