Jobs Outlook: Forest, Conservation, and Logging Workers
Overall employment of forest, conservation, and logging workers is expected to decline slightly through the year 2012. Most job openings will result from replacement needs. Many logging workers transfer to other jobs that are less physically demanding and dangerous, or else they retire. In addition, some forestry workers are youths who are not committed to the occupation on a long-term basis. Some take jobs to earn money for school; others work in this occupation only until they find a better paying job.
Employment of forest and conservation workers is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations. Setting aside more land to protect natural resources or wildlife habitats helps to create demand for more forest and conservation workers. In addition, under the latest farm bill, small, private farmowners were offered incentives to convert all or part of their land to forest for ecological purposes. This conversion may indirectly cause the hiring of forest and conservation workers to work on the property.
Despite steady demand for lumber and other wood products, employment of timber-cutting and logging occupations is expected to decline, primarily because of increased mechanization and increasing imports. New federal policy allowing some access to federal timberland may moderate any decline, however, and job opportunities also will arise from owners of privately owned forests and tree farms. However, domestic timber producers face increasing competition from foreign producers, who can harvest the same amount of timber at lower cost. As competition increases, the logging industry is expected to continue to consolidate in order to reduce costs, thereby eliminating some jobs.
Increased mechanization of logging operations and improvements in logging equipment will continue to depress demand for many timber-cutting and logging workers. Employment of fallers, buckers, choke setters, and other workers—whose jobs are labor intensive—should decline as safer laborsaving machinery and other equipment are increasingly used. Employment of machinery and equipment operators, such as logging tractor and log-handling equipment operators, should be less adversely affected.
Weather can force the curtailment of logging operations during the muddy spring season and the cold winter months, depending on the geographic region. Changes in the level of construction, particularly residential construction, also affect logging activities in the short term. In addition, logging operations must be relocated when timber in a particular area has been completely harvested. During prolonged periods of inactivity, some workers may stay on the job to maintain or repair logging machinery and equipment; others are forced to find jobs in other occupations or be without work.