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One out of every six manufacturing jobs in B.C. from forestry, says study

Stabilizing timber supply critical to maintaining forest sector
Timber harvest on Crown land has shrunk 30 per cent since 2021, report finds. Glacier Media file photo, submitted

The forest sector in B.C. may have shrunk dramatically over the past 20 years, but it remains an important pillar of the economy, providing one out of every six manufacturing jobs in B.C., according to an economic impact study released by the B.C. Council of Forest Industries (COFI).

The report was released today in advance of this week's annual COFI conference, April 10 to 12 in Vancouver.

The forest sector still supports 49,000 jobs, the study found, and contributes $17 billion annually to B.C’s gross domestic product. It’s a sector that pays comparatively high salaries, averaging more than $106,000 per year, and accounts for one out of every six manufacturing jobs in B.C.

“This study demonstrates that the B.C. forest industry is one of the main drivers of British Columbia’s economic base, providing outsized benefits to living standards and government revenue by generating employment, value-added activity, and exports,” said COFI chief economist Kurt Niquidet.

But it’s a sector that has been battered by a declining timber supply, high operating costs, and American softwood lumber duties, all of which have contributed to major sawmill and pulp mill closures in recent years.

“Coming out of the pandemic, 2022 was a highly volatile year for prices, not only for lumber but for many other commodities as well,” Niquidet said. “Forest product markets today are different and so are other economic dynamics in the sector. The industry has been challenged by rapidly changing market conditions, high costs, natural disturbances like fire and insects, and the impact of new public policies.”

Niquidet noted that timber harvesting on Crown land has declined by roughly 30 per cent since 2021.

“We need to find ways to stabilize fibre supply and build a more predictable and sustainable path forward for the sector,” he said.

“Locally and globally the demand for wood products for more affordable and climate resilient housing is growing, and so is the demand for low-carbon and bio-based materials. But in the short term we are faced with a critical shortage of timber for BC mills. Left unchecked, reduced access to fibre supply will drive further losses in the investment, infrastructure and workforce needed to meet those new opportunities.

“It is important to recognize that the direct and indirect economic benefits from the forest sector are linked to annual timber harvest levels,” Niquidet said. “That’s why industry, government, First Nations, local communities and workers need to come together to address current uncertainty over fibre supply and attract the investment required to build on B.C.’s strategic advantage in the conservation and sustainable management of this renewable resource.”

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