Employment is a key indicator of economic, social and community wellbeing. Average wages and income are also important aspects of employment quality, and of the economic value of forests and forest-related employment to communities.


Between 2002-2013,  the forestry sector has seen a decline in employment activity. This has been due to improvements in productivity, along with market and exchange rate conditions. Unemployment increased especially following the 2008 global economic crisis, but there is now positive momentum in the job market, leading to labour and skill shortages in several areas.

  • Forestry and logging: the rise in the log harvest over the past few years has stabilised employment levels in forestry and logging.
  • Sawmilling and processing: tight margins over several years (for both domestic and export markets) have led to a number of mill closures and initiatives to improve mill productivity.
  • Re-sawing and dressing (e.g. floorboards, mouldings and kiln dried timber): a 25 percent increase in employment between 2002 and 2007 has been reversed over the past five years and employment numbers are on par with 2002.
  • Pulp, paper and paperboard: ongoing rationalisation has seen employment numbers decline by 43 percent since 2002.
  • Structural components (e.g. wooden structural fittings, wooden components for prefabricated wooden buildings, wooden door frames, roof trusses): there was growth of 36 percent (1630 workers) between 2002 and 2007, but difficult market conditions post 2008 led to a period of restructuring and job losses.
  • Furniture: traditionally a significant employer of skilled cabinet makers and wood machinists, producing for both the domestic and export market. A decline in employment of 46 percent (2930 workers) since 2002 is attributed to a combination of increased imports of furniture and a higher New Zealand exchange rate.


Earnings in both the forestry and wood product manufacturing sectors increased at rates above the national average between 2010 and 2014, but in both sectors remain below the national average.

  • Forestry workers saw a rise in inflation-adjusted hourly earnings of 15.7 percent. A significant proportion of this increase is due to the rise in harvest volumes and increased labour demand.
  • Wood product manufacturing workers saw hourly earnings increase by an average of 4.2 percent.
  • Average hourly earnings in forestry are now 84 percent of the national average, and 85 percent for wood product manufacturing.


In the forestry sector, the average number of paid hours worked each week between 2010 and 2014 has fluctuated, between 37.5 hours and 42.5 hours. This fluctuation reflects varying demand for harvesting services, the availability of crews and the location of sites.

In the wood product manufacturing sector, the average working week is between 38.8 hours to 41.4 hours of paid labour. Part of this variability relates to the level of overtime occurring within the industry.



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