A moderately healthy outlook - Woodshop News

A moderately healthy outlook

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I came across some employment statistics from the government the other day, and I’m pleased to report that the prediction for woodworkers seems to be, if not outstanding, at least promising.

The U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics includes an entire section devoted to woodworkers with statistics based on 2006 figures, the most recent available. The report is broken down into categories, such as cabinetmakers and machine operators. The report I found, from the 2008-09 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook is, although lengthy, informative and encouraging for those who make their living by making sawdust.

In fact, every category of woodworking is expected to increase except two. One of those, furniture finishers, is expected to drop a modest 3% by 2016. The government speculates the cause is mass-produced furniture – the area most negatively impacted by imports. No surprise there. That other category, however, is expected to drop by 40%. Pattern makers and model makers – once an important woodworking category, but now the smallest – have taken a huge hit due to computer technology. With advanced computer modeling software, the skill and art of the pattern maker is becoming obsolete. It’s a shame, but it happens.

On the other hand, the report found that shops that have adopted computer technology, especially CNC machinery, are the most likely to excel in the marketplace.

Specialized woodworking occupations and custom woodwork, says the report, will best be able to fight the effects of mass production and imports. To quote the report, “Firms that focus on custom woodwork will be best able to compete against imports without transferring jobs offshore.” Sounds like good news for custom furniture makers and millwork shops.

Oddly, the report says nothing about woodworking writers. I guess I’m in the “woodworkers, all other” category.

You can find the report here: www.bls.gov/oco/ocos237.htm

Till next time,

A.J.

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