Overall employment of woodworkers is expected to decline through 2014, although job growth and opportunities will vary by specialty. In general, opportunities for more highly skilled woodworkers will be better than for woodworkers in specialties susceptible to productivity improvements and competition from imported wood products. Despite the expected overall decline in employment of woodworkers, many job opportunities still will arise each year because of the need to replace experienced woodworkers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Firms will need woodworkers with technical skills to operate their increasingly advanced computerized machinery. The number of new workers entering these occupations is expected to be low because, as school systems face tighter budgets, the first programs to be cut often are vocational-technical programs, including those that train woodworkers. Also, interest in pursuing these jobs will continue to decline as workers question the stability of manufacturing occupations. For these reasons, competition should be mild, and opportunities should be best for woodworkers who, through vocational education or experience, develop highly specialized woodworking skills or knowledge of CNC machine tool operation.
Employment of sawing and woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders is expected to decline through 2014. Jobs in the United States will continue to be lost as imports grow. To remain competitive with these imports, some domestic firms are expected to continue to move their production processes to foreign countries, further reducing employment. Others are using advanced technology, such as robots and CNC machinery, to reduce the number of workers needed in production. These forces will prevent employment from rising with the demand for wood products, particularly in the mills and manufacturing plants where many processes can be automated. Among woodworking machine operators, job prospects will be best for those skilled in CNC machine tool operation.
Employment of furniture finishers is expected to decline. Since furniture is largely mass-produced, it is highly susceptible to import competition; the percentage of furniture sold in the United States that is produced abroad has steadily increased over the past 10 years, a trend that is expected to continue.
Employment of bench carpenters, cabinetmakers, modelmakers, patternmakers, and other specialized woodworking occupations will grow
Employment in all woodworking specialties is highly sensitive to economic cycles. During economic downturns, workers are subject to layoffs or reductions in hours.