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Logging Workers - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Logging workers generally advance from tasks requiring a lot of manual labor to those involving the operation of expensive, sometimes complicated logging equipment. Inexperienced entrants usually begin as laborers, carrying tools and equipment, clearing brush, performing equipment maintenance, and loading and unloading logs and brush. For some, familiarization with logging operations may lead to jobs such as log-handling equipment operator. Further experience may lead to jobs involving the operation of more complicated machinery and yarding towers to transport, load, and unload logs. Those who have the skills required for the efficient use of power saws and other equipment may become fallers and buckers.

Some experienced logging workers start their own logging contractor businesses, but to do so they also need some basic business skills, which are essential in logging’s difficult business climate.

Logging workers held about 66,100 jobs in 2008. About half of all logging workers work for the logging industry. Another 31 percent are self-employed, who mostly work under contract to landowners and the logging industry. About 10 percent work in the wood product manufacturing industry, mainly in sawmills.

Seasonal demand for logging workers can vary by region and time of year. For northern States in particular, winter weather can interrupt logging operations, although some logging can be done in winter.

Job Outlook
Employment of logging workers is projected to grow more slowly than the average over the 2008-18 decade. Despite slower than average employment growth, job opportunities should be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation for jobs that are less hazardous.

Job Growth
Employment of logging workers is expected to grow 6 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is slower than the average for all occupations. New policies allowing some access to Federal timberland may result in some logging jobs, and Federal legislation designed to prevent destructive wildfires by proactively thinning forests in susceptible regions also may result in additional jobs. Foreign and domestic demand for new wood products, such as wood pellets, is expected to result in some employment growth as well. Nonetheless, domestic timber producers continue to face increasing competition from foreign producers, who can harvest the same amount of timber at lower cost. The logging industry is expected to continue to consolidate in order to reduce costs, which may offset the creation of most new jobs.

Increased mechanization of logging operations and improvements in logging equipment will continue to depress demand for many manual timber-cutting and logging workers. Employment of fallers, buckers, choke setters, and other workers whose jobs are labor intensive should decline as more laborsaving equipment is used. Employment of machinery and equipment operators, such as tree harvesting, skidding, and log-handling equipment operators, will be less adversely affected and should rise as logging companies switch away from manual tree felling.

Despite slower than average employment growth, job opportunities should be good because of the need to replace workers who leave the occupation for other jobs that are less physically demanding, dangerous, and prone to layoffs. Employment of logging workers can sometimes be unsteady as changes in the level of construction, particularly residential construction, can cause slowdowns in logging activities in the short term. In addition, logging operations must be relocated when timber in a particular area has been harvested. During prolonged periods of inactivity, some workers may stay on the job to maintain or repair logging machinery and equipment, but others are laid off or forced to find jobs in other occupations.

Earnings of logging workers vary by size of establishment and by geographic area. Workers in the largest establishments earn more than those in the smallest ones. Workers in Alaska and the Northwest earn more than those in the South, where the cost of living is generally lower.

Small logging contractor firms generally offer timber-cutting and logging workers few benefits beyond vacation days. However, some employers offer full-time workers basic benefits, such as medical coverage, and provide safety apparel and equipment.

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