Timber harvests fell for the second year in 2019 in northwestern Oregon.
The 2019 harvest was down 11% from 2018 and 15% from 2017. The total harvest in 2019 was about 9% lower than the average for the previous 10 years. Employment in the lumber industry declined slightly in 2019 and was about 20 jobs lower than the average employment of the previous 10 years.
Employment in logging, forestry, and lumber and wood product manufacturing in Clatsop County declined slightly, with the loss of 15 jobs. Employment was about 6% below its 10-year average. Slightly weaker harvests in the 1990s supported more than 500 jobs.
There were four wood products factories in the county in 2019 and 16 forestry and logging companies.
Timber harvest in Columbia County fell 9% in 2019. Total harvest was 149,145,000 board feet. This is the worst year since 2011, and 8% below the average for the previous 10 years. For much of the 1980s and 1990s, Columbia County used to strike over its weight when it comes to lumber production. Harvest levels regularly match or exceed neighboring Lincoln and Tillamook counties, but this has not been the case since the Great Recession. Columbia County is the smallest county in northwestern Oregon, at just 657 square miles. About 75% of the county is zoned as forest land.
Employment in logging, forestry, and wood and wood product manufacturing decreased from 11 in 2019 to 457. Employment in logging and wood and wood product manufacturing increased more than 100 jobs since the bottom of the recession and was 9% above the average for the previous 10 years. Sadly, that’s just over half of its early 2000s level.
As of 2019, there were six sawmills and 28 lumber and logging companies in the county.
Timber harvest in Tillamook County increased by approximately 1% in 2019. Total harvest was 197,902,000 board feet. The recent poor crop in Tillamook County was 142,018,000 board feet in 2009, so the 2017 crop remained an improvement over that year and was still above the 10-year average.
Tillamook County covers 1,102 square miles and is the largest of five counties in northwestern Oregon. About 85% of the county is zoned as forest land. The county is also home to the Tillamook State Forest.
Employment in logging, forestry, and lumber and wood product manufacturing decreased by 23 jobs in Tillamook County in 2019 to 554 jobs. The county lost about 240 industry jobs during the Great Recession. One of the reasons for the decline was the loss of factories. The county had seven factories in this industry in 2006, only four in 2013, and was back to five factories in 2019. The logging portion of the industry has remained relatively stable during the recession and recovery. The industry as a whole recovered around 150 jobs during the recovery, but employment slowly declined from 2015 to 2019.
Timber harvest fell 17% in Lincoln County in 2019. The harvest was 155,354,000 board feet. The 2019 harvest was the lowest since 2010, when the county got bogged down in the Great Recession. Lincoln County is the second largest in Northwestern Oregon at 980 square miles. About 90% of the county is forest land.
Employment in the logging, forestry, and lumber and wood products manufacturing industry was essentially unchanged in 2019 – down eight jobs from 2018, and was only a handful of jobs below their pre-Great Recession level. There were 14 logging and logging companies in the county. The manufacturing of wood products is a confidential industry in Lincoln County.
Timber harvests fell 13% in 2019 to 109,502,000 board feet, the lowest level since 2014. Benton County produces less timber than any of the other four counties in northwestern Ontario. ‘Oregon. Benton County is the second smallest county in the region and approximately 57% is forested.
Employment in the county’s logging, forestry, and lumber and wood products manufacturing industry fell from 21 in 2019 to 441. Despite weaker harvests, the County of Benton is in the middle of the area for lumber-related jobs. The small loss continued a long-term trend of declining jobs in the lumber industry in the county and northwestern Oregon. By comparison, a similar harvest level supported nearly 1,050 jobs in 1996. The county still had 10 wood product factories and 27 forestry and logging companies.
Timber harvest declined 17% in Clatsop County in 2019. The 2019 harvest was 215,784,000 board feet, which was the lowest since 1998. It was also 20% lower than the average for 10 previous years. Clatsop County has an area of 827 square miles, which puts it squarely in the middle of the pack in terms of the size of the counties in northwestern Oregon. About 85% of the county is forest land and includes most of the Clatsop state forest.
Northwestern Oregon has reclaimed a few jobs in the lumber industry from the depths of the Great Recession, but the region seems unlikely to regain all of the jobs. Technological and market changes are helping to reduce lumber jobs statewide. The demand for labor was about as strong as it could be in 2019. Employment in forestry fell sharply during the pandemic recession and rebounded, but not fully returned to levels. ‘before the pandemic. The story is similar for the manufacture of wood products.
While these industries may not grow much in the future, the region will have hundreds of lumber industry job openings due to turnover and retirements. Northwestern Oregon will continue to produce lumber and lumber workers for years to come.
Erik Knoder is a regional economist with the Oregon Department of Employment. He can be reached at 541-351-5595.