Employment and Income Trends for Forest-Based Sectors in the South

Key Findings from the Southern Forest Futures Project Technical Report

Camping is one of hundreds of forest-based recreational activities. Photo by Larry Krohnak, courtesy of InterfaceSouth.

The Southern Forest Futures Project (SFFP) started in 2008 as an effort to study and understand the various forces reshaping the forests across the 13 states of the Southeast. Chartered by the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region and Southern Research Station, along with the Southern Group of State Foresters, the project examines a variety of possible futures and how they might shape forests and their many ecosystems and values. The Southern Forest Futures Project Technical Report provides an interdisciplinary assessment of potential futures of southern forests and the many benefits they provide.

Southern forests are used for recreation, provide wood inputs to manufacturing, create scenery, and enhance the quality of life. In addition to providing jobs and income to the local and regional economy, forests are now considered a potential source of woody biomass for bioenergy. Chapter 12 of the technical report addresses the short-term future output and jobs in forest-using sectors of the southern economy. Specific sectors addressed include forestry and logging, wood products manufacturing, paper manufacturing, forest-based recreation, and the new bioenergy sectors.

Key Findings:

  • The southern logging sector is expected to experience small increases in both industry output (3 percent) and jobs (2 percent) from 2008 to 2018. Increased demand from bioenergy is expected to counteract increasing trends toward mechanization and reduced demand from some traditional wood-using industries.
  • Southern wood products manufacturing is expected to increase in industry output (2.2 percent) in conjunction with the housing recovery after the 2007–09 recession. Technical change is expected to continue—with capital substituting for labor—leading to continued declines in jobs through 2018 (8 percent).
  • The southern paper manufacturing sector is expected to continue contracting, with industry output declining by 17 percent through 2018. Output declines and continued technical change are expected to reduce jobs by 26 percent from 2008 to 2018.
  • Forest-based recreation is expected to increase following the 2007–09 recession, but at lower rates than overall travel and tourism. Increases in output may be limited because forest-based recreation per capita is not expected to increase at the same rate as other travel and tourism. In addition, technical change is expected to continue to reduce labor demand for the same level of output.
  • Bioenergy demands resulting from state and federal policies are expected to lead to increases in logging sector jobs and output. If competition occurs between bioenergy demands and traditional wood products demands, additional losses in jobs and output in the wood products and paper manufacturing sectors would be expected. Output and employment gains from bioenergy development and production would be offset by losses in conventional energy, including mining, drilling, transport, and fuel and electricity generation and distribution. The overall effects on output and employment in the South are expected to be small.

 Access Chapter 12 of the SFFP report.

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