Hardwood floor prices continue to climb as the Canadian furniture industry continues to grapple with a global recession that has left many workers unemployed.
A report from the Globe AndMail this week says softwood floor and plywood floor costs are rising as the industry moves into an era of lean times.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to find qualified labour and demand is shifting towards the lower end of the labour market,” said Stephen Ziegler, a senior research associate at the Institute for Research on Labour.
“There are more and more people on welfare, people who can’t find jobs, people whose income is being eroded by the recession and the tax cuts,” he said.
“A lot of the work that was done in the past was done to try to fill the gaps left by the past and now the labour is no longer available.”
Hardwood floors are the most common type of flooring used in residential, commercial and industrial buildings, and are used in about 50 per cent of new buildings, according to the Globe & Mail survey.
But the Globe survey says a number of industries are using cheaper materials that do not last as long as hardwood floors, such as polyester and vinyl.
A number of companies have been struggling to keep up with demand, Zieglin said, including the likes of Cielo, and even furniture makers like the Rivet Brothers.
“You are going to see the prices rise,” Ziegman said.
He said the industry is in a precarious situation.
“They’re in the middle of an economic downturn and they’re looking for the best possible materials,” he added.
“The industry is facing a lot of pressures right now and it’s not a good time to be in this industry.”
The industry’s biggest problem, according a Globe survey last year, is that the average Canadian worker is being laid off.
The survey found that almost one in five workers in the industry are unemployed and the number of people without a job has risen to 8.5 per cent, up from 6 per cent last year.
Ziegelman said the survey shows that workers are getting laid off across the board.
“We’re seeing a lot more laid off workers than the industry would like to admit,” he told CBC News.
“That’s an unfortunate reality of our industry.”
Ziegerman said there is a lot that can be done to boost demand for hardwood and polyester flooring, especially in residential buildings.
“If you look at a lot the companies are looking at that they’re using cheaper fabrics and they’ve got a lot less manufacturing capacity,” he explained.
“But what we’ve also seen is that many companies are making furniture and it is all being outsourced, it is outsourced at the manufacturing plant.”
Zieler said the government is also taking steps to ensure that the labour supply for the industry stays strong.
He says that could include a $500-million fund aimed at increasing the supply of workers for softwood and rubber floors.
“Our government is committed to providing more skilled workers for the softwood industry, which will be important in ensuring that the industry remains competitive,” said the minister in a statement on Monday.