Today, that industry encompasses a range of products. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,the wood products manufacturing sector includes lumber, trusses, flooring, containers, manufactured homes and other prefabricated wood buildings.
Within those production areas, subsectors include sourcing, sawing, planing, shaping, laminating and assembling the wood products. Although wood destined for different uses is typically sourced from the same location, each use has its own supply chain. And each piece of that supply chain is a source of reliable employment across diverse job markets, both rural and urban.
The U.S. softwood lumber industry is a significant employer providing 208,000+ direct jobs in harvesting and manufacturing and 775,000+ direct and indirect jobs to Americans.
—The Softwood Lumber Board FEA Economic Report
Today’s lumber industry, powered by a new spirit of innovation, brings a wide spectrum of career opportunities that can be found:
- In design. Architects and other design professionals have begun specializing their practices in tall timber, biophilic design (using natural materials, including wood) and sustainable design (also frequently using wood) due to wood’s aesthetic, environmental and economic benefits.
- On the jobsite. The increasing use of wood in mid-rise commercial and multifamily projects is supporting jobs in project management, contracting, subcontracting, wood finishing and more. The manufacture of prefabricated wood assemblies and entire structures, too, has created a host of new employment opportunities on and off the jobsite.
- In rural communities. Good jobs in mills are plentiful in some of the nation’s most beautiful rural communities, which account for nearly three-quarters of the country’s land area. There, local economies are often centralized around the production of a single natural resource. With the new class of next-generation wood products seeing increased use, rural communities can rely on jobs from a sustainable domestic industry rooted in a natural resource for generations to come.
- In tech. In addition to traditional harvesting (forestry) and processing (mill) jobs, new careers can be found at the intersection of sustainability and technology. For example, forest managers are using drone technology to administer pest control and perform fire-prevention checks.
- On campus. Research at our nation’s colleges and universities is powering advances in tall timber engineering and prefab systems. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students, established engineers and biomaterial researchers are finding new career opportunities thanks to wood.
The U.S. wood products industry generates $20.4 billion in payroll income annually, with an additional $3.5 billion each year from forestry and logging occupations, while contributing roughly $1 billion in state and local taxes. Together, wood production, forestry and logging are responsible for more than half a million U.S. jobs.
Oregon, California, Pennsylvania, Texas and Georgia lead U.S. states in the number of jobs in the wood products, forestry and logging industries.
Growth is expected. A study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects employment opportunities in renewable natural resources to increase more than 5 percent between 2015 and 2020 for college graduates with bachelor’s or higher degrees. Jobs in sustainable forest management are expected to remain as stable as the pool of candidates.
The forests are sustainable—and so are the jobs they provide. From rural economies where reliable, well-paying jobs are a top priority, to urban communities where building innovation is evolving design possibilities, wood is good business.