In my extensive travels, upwards of 700 customer locations in the last 2 years, the same concern surfaces in every demographic and geographic area of the country: labor shortages. Many of our customers are expressing significant concerns about the lack of skilled and unskilled labor. The lumber industry has an aging workforce, and replenishing the rapidly retiring workforce has proven to be difficult. As the economy has steadily increased over the last few years, so has the growth of the housing industry. This has led to an increase in demand for lumber, building materials and related household goods. Many customers have had to decline jobs due to the supply and demand imbalance.
Increased economy, increased discretional spending, immigration and undocumented worker controls, increased pay and benefit offerings from retail and restaurant employers are all contributing factors to labor. There is competition in the general labor force with competitive wages, but there’s not enough publicity about the opportunities in the lumber-related industry.
Recruitment and publicity will help at the elementary, high school and technical school level; college recruitment for management and sales positions. Employers should consider increased wages and benefits to compete with businesses and industry in the surrounding area, and upgrade technology of the machinery and equipment as to provide for a more skilled and higher paid workforce.