Jump in hardwood plywood imports
The volume of hardwood plywood imports increased 28%
in May. The largest growth was in imports from China,
despite the US anti-dumping and countervailing duties.
Additional duties of 10% may be imposed on plywood and
a wide range of other wood products and furniture,
according to a recent announcement by the Trump
Most other countries also increased shipments to the U.S.
Plywood imports from Vietnam more than tripled year-todate
compared to 2017. Imports from Indonesia declined
month-on-month, but year-to-May imports are
significantly higher than at the same time last year.
Higher moulding and flooring imports
Hardwood moulding imports grew 26% in May following
three months of decline. The strongest growth was in
imports from China. Imports from Malaysia declined, but
year-to-date imports were 20% higher than in May 2017.
Both hardwood flooring and engineered/laminate flooring
imports were up in May. Hardwood flooring imports yearto-
date were 58% higher than in May 2017. Year-to-date
imports from Brazil more than doubled from last year.
Growth in assembled flooring imports was more modest
compared to 2017. China¡¯s shipments increased in May,
but year-to-date imports from China were lower than at the
same time last year.
Strong growth in wooden furniture imports
Wooden furniture imports surged by 19% in May to
US$1.67 billion. Year-to-date imports were 7% higher
than in May 2017.
China and Vietnam saw the greatest growth in May.
Imports of all wooden furniture grew in May, in the
following order: kitchen furniture, furniture for other use,
upholstered seats, office furniture, bedroom furniture, and
not upholstered seats.
Growth in US furniture manufacturing and retail sales
In the first half of 2018 retail sales at furniture and home
furnishing stores grew 5.3% compared to 2017 (US
Census Bureau, Advance Monthly Retail Trade Survey).
Retail sales were almost unchanged from May to June.
The wood products and furniture industries reported
growth in June in the Institute for Supply Management¡¯s
Manufacturing (ISM) Business Survey. Growth in wood
products manufacturing was the second highest of all
Transportation shortages and high costs, especially for
trucking, are a major problem across all industries.
Respondents were also concerned how the new US tariffs
and other countries¡¯ counter tariffs will affect their
Transportation bottlenecks hurting businesses
The US Woodworking Network reported that there is a
severe shortage of truck drivers in the US. In 2017 the
sector needed an estimated 51,000 additional truck drivers
and the figure is expected to rise to 174,000 by 2025
according to the American Transportation Research
The Hardwood Distributors Association stated that many
of their members are seeing a significant impact on their
delivery capacity due to an inability to efficiently transport
materials. Companies along the entire supply chain are
affected by shortage of trucks, from sawmills to
distributors of finished goods. Some companies have
started reviewing their manufacturing footprint with the
view to reducing transportation distances.
Lower housing starts despite strong economy
Housing starts declined in June in all regions of the U.S.
Housing starts fell 12% in June to a seasonally adjusted
annual rate of 1.17 million units, according to the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development and the
Commerce Department. Single-family starts fell 9%.
Permits were at the lowest level of the year in June.
The cost of building materials have been rising rapidly,
especially the cost of sawnwood due to tariffs on imports
from Canada. The National Association of Home Builders
is concerned about a softening in housing production in
the near term.
Despite lower housing starts, builder confidence in the
market for newly-built single-family homes was
unchanged in July, according to the National Association
of Home Builders.
Demand for new housing remains strong, while builders
need to manage the rising cost of materials and labour.
In Canada, housing starts surged in June because of higher
multi-family starts in urban areas.