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The U.S. lumber and wood industry, or the US forest products sector, covers everything from forestry to furniture to wood pulp. Wood is used in construction, papermaking, for tools, and as a fuel. You will see wood divided into hardwood and softwood. These divisions can be misleading because they refer more to how the wood is used than its actual structure. You can find hardwoods in flooring and furniture. Paper and fuel producers utilize softwoods.
Wood plays a vital part in the economy. Sawmills and production plants turn out raw materials and products such as doors, windows, and furnishings. However, almost half of the wood goes into chips, sawdust, and shavings to make pulp, paper, and fiberboard.
The U.S. lumber and wood industry provides 474,239 jobs at 16,818 companies. This number is up 1.67% from the previous year. It has reported average sales of $237 billion. The industry imports 8% of its materials, compared to 11% for manufacturing as a whole. Most of the products are sold domestically, with only 10% international distribution as compared to 29% for total manufacturing.
A smaller proportion of companies, 1%, are woman-owned versus 2% for manufacturing in general. None of these companies are minority-owned. In manufacturing as a whole, 1% of companies have minority ownership. Public ownership is also lower, at 4% versus 5% for total manufacturing.
The greatest number of companies, 37%, are housed in the South. The Midwest is home to 27% of the population. You can find 19% in the West and 18% in the Northeast.
These companies include five subindustries, producing a variety of products for many different uses.
Many of the top lumber and wood companies in the U.S. have familiar names, such as Lowes, Andersen Corp., and Weyerhaeuser, the largest lumber producer in the US. Some of these are involved in lumber wholesaling in the US. The products are also sold in home improvement stores, online, and to contractors and builders. For the most part, you would be looking at offering lumber manufacturers mainline services such as staffing, finance, and IT.
This subindustry provides wood for construction. Millwood comes from spruce. Producers dry it to a specific moisture content and grade it for strength. Knots and holes are excluded from lengths that are glued together and planed into construction-ready timbers.
Plywood is made from thin layers glued and laminated together. Builders use various grades for exterior sheathing and flooring. Do-it-yourself stores also sell it to consumers.
Structural members support loads in a building. They must be the strongest and most dependable types of wood.
Millwood and plywood producers could be prospects if you sell adhesives. The wood dust produced in production is an inhalation hazard. It can also explode. Manufacturers of safety equipment provide vital supplies for wood producers and downstream industries.
This subindustry is a subcategory of Wood Container and Pallet Manufacturing. It produces wood box shook, wood boxes, barrels, baskets, berry crates, and many other wooden containers. It also provides containers for many other industries.
You may find the variety of structures manufactured under this subcategory surprising. In addition to the prefabricated buildings and cabins you might expect, it also includes chicken coops, marinas, saunas, and prefabricated floors. You may find sales opportunities for coatings, adhesives, and fasteners.
This subindustry covers an array of processes and products. They include:
● Wood preserving.
● Kiln drying.
● Cork manufacturing, with the exception of gaskets.
● Shoe trees.
● Broom handles.
● Toilet seats.
With the wide variety of products involving wood and lumber, observing trends in the US forest products sector, US lumber industry trends, and trends in the US wood products sector will help you target your sales efforts.
So, how is the lumber industry doing? For the lumber industry, 2023 has been a roller-coaster ride. Lumber had three upswings, went flat twice, and dropped for three weeks during the summer. Though overall the numbers were positive, industry confidence isn’t high.
Buyers have shown an unnerving lack of urgency. Through 2023, they had been able to wait until the last minute to fill their needs and then submit small and even less-than-truckload orders. A strong housing report triggered a somewhat stronger lumber industry outlook. Unfortunately, confidence faded as the numbers plunged again. All in all, many traders are feeling uneasy, which may not make it the best time to launch a sales campaign in that direction.
The wood products industry has better news. Globally, the market grew from $697 billion in 2022 to $748 billion in 2023. It is expected to grow at an annual rate of 6.6% to $664 billion in 2027. Companies involved include Weyerhaeuser.
Increased regulation brought increasing transparency to the wood products supply chain. The industry is using new tracking and tracing technologies. These include barcodes and ID chips.
The growing interest in sustainability is also good news for wood products. Under the sustainability banner, the Biden Administration invested $3.37 million to strengthen the wood products economy. Funded projects aim at products manufactured from small-mass timber. These will lead to new sources of supply for wood product producers. Other discarded wood materials will be made into new products, with funds supporting wood processing facilities.
Wood is advantageously positioned to take advantage of consumer and governmental pressures toward sustainability and the innovations to bring it about. A $43 million investment by the United States Department of Agriculture will stimulate innovation even more, opening up new markets and opportunities in the wood products sector.
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