Only China saw US plywood imports slip in 2017
Hardwood plywood imports totalled 2.95 million cu.m. in
2017 valued at US$1.77 billion. The import volume
declined 6% from 2016, while the value of imports was
The decline from the previous year was entirely in imports
from China, which fell 27% compared to 2016. Imports
from China were down significantly from June onwards
after the US imposed antidumping and countervailing
duties on plywood from China.
All other major plywood suppliers increased exports to the
US in 2017. The largest growth was in imports from
Malaysia (104,408 cu.m., +60%), Cambodia (94,086
cu.m., +379%), and Vietnam (61,029 cu.m., +179%).
Cambodia and Vietnam in particular have become
alternate sources for US plywood importers after the
duties on Chinese plywood came into effect.
Mixed import performance for joinery and flooring
Imports of most processed wood products (except veneers)
were higher in 2017 supported by growth in US housing
construction, renovation and remodeling.
Solid hardwood flooring imports increased while
engineered/laminate flooring imports decreased 9% from
2016. Laminate flooring in particular has strong
competition in non-wood products such as vinyl plank
Hardwood flooring imports from China and Brazil
expanded in 2017 but Malaysia and Indonesia shipped less
hardwood flooring last year to the U.S. than in 2016.
Hardwood moulding imports were slightly higher than in
2016, but moulding imports from Brazil and Malaysia
declined in 2017.
Strong growth in wooden furniture imports from
Vietnam and India
The U.S. imported US$18.5 billion worth of wooden
furniture in 2017, 11% more than in 2016. Imports from
all key supplier countries increased. China accounted for
47% of all wooden furniture imports in 2017, followed by
Vietnam with 20%. The strongest growth rate was in
imports from Vietnam and India.
US imports of all types of furniture increased in 2017. The
strongest growth was in imports of kitchen furniture,
upholstered seating and office furniture.
Retail sales at furniture stores were almost unchanged in
the last two months of 2017 according to US Census
figures. The advance retail estimate for January 2018
indicates retail sales of furniture and home furnishings to
be 5% higher than in January 2017.
The latest Smith Leonard survey of US residential
furniture manufacturers and distributors reports the
following growth figures for November 2017: New
furniture orders increased 11% compared to November
2016. Furniture shipments were up 4% year-to-date from
November last year.
Both the furniture industry and wood product
manufacturing reported contraction in January, according
the Institute for Supply Management. Most other US
manufacturing industries reported growth during the
US kitchen cabinet manufacturers reported a 2.9%
increase in sales in 2017, according to the Kitchen Cabinet
Manufacturers Association’s monthly Trend of Business
Survey. Participating cabinet manufacturers reported total
sales of US$6.9 billion for 2017. Participants in the
business survey represent about 70% of the U.S. cabinet
Encouraging employment and consumer sentiment
The unemployment rate was unchanged in January at
4.1%. Employment continued to trend higher in the
construction and manufacturing sectors according to the
US Bureau of Labor Statistics. GDP increased 2.6% in the
fourth quarter of 2017 according to the advance estimate
released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the third
quarter, GDP growth was 3.2%.
Consumer confidence rose in early February to its second
highest level since 2004 according to the University of
Michigan Surveys of Consumers report. A large
proportion of households reported they expect income
gains during the year ahead.
Strong gains in residential construction
Housing starts in January were at a seasonally adjusted
annual rate of 1.33 million according to the US Census
Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development. January starts increased 10% from
December with much of the gain being in multi-family
construction (+24%) but single-family house construction
also increased (+4%). The National Association of Home
Builders association forecasts a 2.7% annual growth in
housing starts to 1.25 million units in 2018.
Court rejects deadline extension for formaldehyde
A federal court ruled that the US Environmental
Protection Agency had no authority to delay compliance
with formaldehyde emission standards. The ruling was in
favour of two environmental groups who challenged the
The extension would have given manufacturers and
importers an additional year before having to comply with
the Formaldehyde Emission Standards for Composite
Wood Products. The original compliance deadline was
December 12, 2017.
Several US industry associations filed briefs with the court
in support of the deadline extension, including the
Composite Panel Association and the International Wood
Products Association who represents importers. Parties
have until March 9 now to confer on an alternative
compliance date for the formaldehyde emissions rule.