If you’re out of work and looking for a job, now might be a good time to explore the forestry field.

Since 2009 forestry employment has been making a slow recovery. Forestry related employers are looking to hire. New information released by the Arkansas Forest Resources Center indicates that forestry jobs pay roughly 35 percent higher than the average county employee job.

Hourly rates can vary when it comes to jobs in the forest field. The typical logging, lumber, or furniture job pays about $15-20 per hour. In the pulp and paper sector, those numbers climb to $30 to $40 an hour, according to Dr. Matthew Pelkki, the associate director at the Arkansas Forest Resource Center, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

“Much of the paper industry is salaried, not hourly, with average annual employee compensation in the pulp and paper sectors being $82,000 range,” Pelkki said.

The average salary in the Forestry field (wages and benefits) is $56,526 per year, or 134 percent of the state average. The average state employee makes about $42,264 annually.

Pelkki said the numbers were collected from the Arkansas Department of Commerce and then processed by the Implan Corporation for economic analysis.

Pelkki says 51 of the state’s 75 counties currently pay above county average salaries. The reason for the growing wages is competition.

Much of the labor pool in rural America has a hard time passing drug tests, background checks, or only showing up for work on time and 40 hours a week. Some of those landing jobs are convicted felons or recent prison releases. According to one local employer, some of those hired only last a few months on the job, according to Pelkki.

Conversely, some of those employers doing the hiring believe in giving former inmates a second chance. And because the jobs pay a bit higher than other jobs out there, there is a sense of long-term loyalty.

Forestry jobs, in general, pay better than the county average. Among those paying well beyond the county, the average is Little River County, where forestry jobs pay a whopping 335 percent above the county average. Domtar Paper Company is listed as the largest employer in Ashdown, Arkansas. Their website says they support about 750 local jobs.

Southern Arkansas is still the heart of the state’s forest industry. The southern part of the state still dominates the employment picture, with Ashley County providing a significant number of jobs at 1,355. Bradley County follows at 1218 jobs and Union County at 1007 positions. The southern tier rounds out a good part of the logging sector, Pelkki said.

In the central part of the state, Faulkner (2,273), Pulaski (1,229), and Jefferson counties (1,378) make up a paper mill and packing corridor.

The state’s largest forestry employer belongs to Sebastian County in the Northwest part of the state, with 2,305 forest-related employees.

“We got through the Covid 19 pandemic in 2020 in far better shape than I would have expected, with the additional stimulus packages and with vaccines particularly, we are looking at this industry ready to grow in 2021-2022,” Pelkki said.