Forest Atlas Of The United States

Forest Industries Keep America Working

Forest industries are a major contributor to the US economy, by providing jobs from forests to showrooms. The economic benefits of the industry are felt throughout the nation, but each region of the country relies on different components of the industry to varying degrees: from softwood lumber and plywood production in the west to hardwood manufacturing in the east.

The forest industry is composed of many different occupations, from natural resource professionals working in the field, to production workers in mills and factories, to statistics and financial experts working in office settings. Forestry and logging workers study the timber resource and deliver raw materials to wood products facilities, while wood and paper mill employees work in the manufacturing sector. The common thread among these jobs is the resource they are ultimately tied to — trees harvested from the Nation's forests.

In the southern US, mills that process timber to make wood products provide a major source of employment for forest industry workers in the South. Both hardwood and softwood mills are prevalent throughout the Southern States, with a few mills that process both hardwoods and softwoods. To the right, the myriad locations, types, and sizes of mills in the region are shown.

Analyzing the percentage of manufacturing employment that is composed of wood and paper manufacturing jobs is one way to highlight the importance of the forest industry to manufacturing activities on a State-by-State basis. For example, wood and paper employment in Maine and Montana may be relatively small compared to more populous States with larger forest industries; however, as a percent of manufacturing the forest industry is very significant in Maine and Montana. In this map, the size of the circular saw icons indicate the number of workers in wood and paper manufacturing.

For the purpose of measuring employment in the industry through time, the forest industry is defined as the sum of employment in three sectors — forestry and logging, wood product manufacturing, and paper manufacturing — and does not include forestry support personnel or those working in furniture manufacturing. Also, these figures include only private employees, so State and Federal Government employees who work in forestry and wood products are not included.

While the forest products industry remains an integral part of the Nation's economy and vital to many local economies, the industry was particularly hard hit by the dramatic downturn in the housing sector and the associated "Great Recession" of 2007–2009. The 75 percent drop in housing starts from 2005 to 2009 had a major impact on the forest industry throughout the country, culminating in a loss of more than 350,000 forest industry jobs. However, a modest recovery in housing and improving economic indicators in 2011–2012 suggest that forest industries may be positioned for a sustained recovery with a rebound in forest industry employment.

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