01/25/2013 10:27 EST | Updated 03/27/2013 05:12 EDT

B.C. forest sector boom causes labour shortage

B.C.’s forest sector is booming again and those in the industry say rising price of lumber is leading to a labour crunch.

Exports to China, a revitalized U.S. housing market and a hurricane on the East Coast have driven lumber prices to heights not seen in seven years — about $400 per thousand board feet dimension lumber.

MaryAnne Arcand with the Central Interior Logging Association says the problem now is getting skilled workers.

“This is the first time in B.C.'s logging lumber history where we had two big customers and so there is a lot more demand,” she said.

“It just creates that situation where demand outstrips supply and now we've got to try and catch up to it.”

Arcand says the problem so acute those in the industry are doing something the oil sector has done for decades — bringing in workers from the East Coast.

“The mills can run if they can find people to run the shifts but as far as the supply chain goes, we have to have people to feed those mills in order to produce lumber and that has become a challenge.”

Arcand says some contractors have a third of their equipment sitting idle because they have no one to run it.

And she says the labour shortage is just going to get worse as the workforce ages.