There’s good news and bad news for logging and sawmilling jobs in the Northwest.
The bad news is new figures out Friday show construction spending dropped in February to the lowest level in more than a decade.
The good news is that timber demand from China is soaring.
Russia has traditionally been China’s main wood supplier. But an export tax by the Russians and the expanding Chinese economy have created an opening for exporters on the West Coast.
The Vancouver, B.C.-based International Wood Markets Group estimates log exports to China from the U.S. rose more than 100 percent over the past year.
Vice president Gerry Van Leeuwen calls lumber and log exports to China ìa saviorî for the North American timber industry.
Gerry Van Leeuwen: “If China wasn’t there today — and this is crude simplification — there would be 30 sawmills in B.C., Washington and Oregon not operating. There would be many, many loggers not working because there’s no market.”
Van Leeuven says the export upswing has a downside for sawmills focused on the U.S. market. They’re having to pay higher prices for raw logs because of competition with export buyers.