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Downturn starting to ease for lumber mills

Lumber mills are starting to emerge from the worst downturn in the industry’s history, according to the Western Wood Products Association.

The Portland-based trade association predicts a 7 percent gain in Western lumber output in 2010, based on a strengthening national housing market.

The region’s 170 sawmills will churn out 11 billion board feet of lumber this year, and 11.8 billion board feet in 2011, according to projections. But market activity will remain well below the peaks of the mid-2000s, the forecast says.

“Our country really hasn’t resolved the key problems that led to this downturn,” said David Jackson, the trade association’s economic services director.

The majority of lumber is used in home construction or remodeling. Housing starts plummeted to 554,000 units in 2009, the lowest level since 1945. For 2010, housing starts are forecast to increase nearly 12 percent to 618,000 and then climb again in 2011 to 719,000 units.

Becky Kramer
Becky Kramer covers business news.

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