The Three Pillars of Sustainability


The forest products industry is among the top 10 manufacturing sector employers in 45 U.S. states. In 2019, the forest products industry (paper, wood and logging) directly employed about 945,000 people and supported more than twice that many derivative jobs in supplier industries and local communities.

Average earnings for a U.S. paper industry employee in 2018

Forest products industry contributions to total U.S. manufacturing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2019

of U.S. pulp and paper mills are located in counties that are more than 80 percent rural

Contributions to GDP

In 2019, the paper and wood products industry contributed $99.6 billion to the total U.S. manufacturing Gross Domestic Product (GDP), of which the pulp and paper sector accounted for $58.2 billion and the wood products sector provided $41.4 billion. This translates to 4.2 percent of the U.S. manufacturing GDP.


In 2019, the industry directly employed about 945,000 people: 96,500 people were employed at pulp, paper and paperboard mills; 268,800 at paper and paperboard converting plants; 409,000 at lumber and wood panel facilities; 50,800 in logging operations; and 119,900 at wood kitchen cabinet plants.

In 2018, employee compensation paid was $30.9 billion in the paper industry, $23.5 billion in the wood products industry and $2.2 billion in the logging industry, totaling $56.5 billion.

Paper industry employee earnings averaged $69,000 in 2018, which was 19 percent above the national average earnings of all non-farm private sector employees. In the Southeast, the leading U.S. region for paper production, paper industry employees earned 41 percent more than their private sector counterparts.

Aligns with objectives of UNSDG #8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

Member Spotlight

Domtar Engages Veterans on a New Mission

Domtar employs more than 7,500 people in more than two dozen locations. They are also a leading employer of former military personnel, employing about 550 veterans — nearly 8 percent of its workforce. The company was featured on Lifetime’s “Military Makeover” series which features veterans who are making the transition from the military to civilian life.

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Effect on Local Communities

AF&PA member facilities are often located in rural communities where they frequently serve as the largest employer. As a result, local economies can be highly dependent on the economic viability of these facilities.

More than 75 percent of all U.S. pulp and paper mills are located in counties that are more than 80 percent rural.

In addition to employee compensation and capital expenditures, the industry spent $152 billion on materials and parts, $4.9 billion on purchased electricity and $4.1 billion on purchased fuels in 2018. Many of these expenditures occurred in and benefited local communities.

Aligns with objectives of UNSDG #11: Sustainable Cities and Communities

Capital Spending

To help modernize plants, and in some cases add capacity, the paper and wood products industry spent $16.1 billion on capital expenditures in 2018, up from $12.9 billion in 2017. A low point occurred during the Great Recession when the industry’s capital spending fell to $6.2 billion in 2009.

Member Spotlight

Graphic Packaging Invests in Sustainable Packaging

In September 2019, Graphic Packaging’s Board of Directors approved a $600 million highly strategic investment into its coated recycled board (CRB) platform. This investment fully supports Graphic Packaging’s commitment to sustainable packaging, exceptional product quality and an unmatched cost position for producing CRB. The capability to produce 500,000 tons of CRB is expected to be capacity neutral by eliminating higher cost production at other facilities. The investment is expected to deliver $100 million in incremental annualized earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) upon full ramp up in 2022, delivering returns well above the cost of capital.

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Paper and wood products industry operating profits totaled about $17.7 billion in 2019, the second highest on record after $19.4 billion in 2018. In 2019, operating profits for the paper segment of the industry totaled $10.7 billion, while the wood segment of the industry brought in $7 billion.

Member Spotlight

Sappi North America’s Ideas That Matter

More than a decade ago Sappi North America established an innovative grant program, Ideas that Matter, to recognize and support designers who use their skills and expertise to solve communications problems for a wide range of charitable activities. Since 1999, Ideas that Matter has funded over 500 nonprofit projects, contributing $13 million worldwide to causes that enhance our lives, our communities and our planet.

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Research & Development (R&D) Expenditures

The paper and wood products industry devotes significant resources to the research and development (R&D) of new and improved products. Globally, paper and wood products companies with U.S. operations spent $1.8 billion on R&D in 2017, the vast majority of which ($1.5 billion) was spent domestically.


Our industry provides jobs and products that contribute to a healthy economy.