The overall Kentucky forest sector contribution was down 1.3% in 2022 compared to 2021 with an  estimatedFigure 1Figure 2 $9.08 billion in direct contributions and a total estimate economic contribution of $13.5 billion (Figure 1). This decrease is largely a result of continued workforce and market challenges. An initiative, Forestry Works Kentucky, is underway to address workforce issues. The downtrend in the forest sector is significant, as it is one of the largest sectors in Kentucky. The economic contributions of this sector are important across the state to both rural and urban communities. Forest industries employed 25,825 people in 2022 with indirect and induced employment resulting in a total of more than 49,109 Kentucky jobs (Figure 2). The direct labor wages for the Kentucky forest sector were $1.8 billion in 2022 with total labor wages reaching $3.2 billion. Kentucky’s forest industries continue to grapple with the aftereffects of COVID, issues that have affected exports particularly to China the last several years, and the retirement of a number of key people instrumental in the leadership of forest industries in the Commonwealth.


Table 1

The 2022 estimates varied by sub-sector. Logging was down 14.74%, primary wood manufacturing was down 11.05% compared to 2021. Secondary wood manufacturing was slightly up by 0.67%, pulp and paper was up 2.62%, wood residue manufacturing was up 3.25%, and paper converters remained flat in 2022 (Table 1). The logging and primary sub-sectors have been impacted by volatile markets for logs and lumber as the economy struggles with rising inflation and the slowing U.S. housing market. Labor  shortages are still a significant issue for the forest sector, with logging and primary industry having the most difficulty in recruitment and retention of skilled labor.