Wyoming Wood Prices Soar Due to COVID, Labor Problems

This story first appeared on Cowboy State Daily

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

There are some things we definitely take for granted in our society – for example, construction projects. Many of us just assume we can go to the lumber yard, get the supplies we need, and build whatever we have in mind.

But what happens when those supplies just aren’t available?

Right now, lumber is hard to come by. And when it can be found, it isn’t cheap.

“Our (plywood) with all of our sheet goods have gone exponentially higher – like eight times higher, and our dimensional lumber has over doubled in price,” said Matt Scott, a contractor in Cody. “But it’s also availability of goods.”

Ken Gould, a sales associate at Knecht Home Center in Sheridan, said the price for standard plywood — also known as oriented strand board or OSB (standard plywood) — is over five times what it cost just six months ago.

“Your cost of OSB right now is, $66.78 for 7/16 OSB sheeting,” Gould said. “Six months ago it was around $13 or $14.”

And the reason behind the price hike? Simple supply and demand, he said.

“The supply is not there,” Gould said. 

Right now, the OSB is coming from places like Michigan, or other suppliers back east, Gould said. But that’s not where the lumber came from before the coronavirus hit.

“Most of your OSB would come out of Canada, but Canada is closed,” he said. 

But it’s not just about border issues. Labor plays a big part, according to Gould.

“I was told this morning that there’s lots of lumber out there to be grabbed and brought in, but they can’t get trucks,” he said. 

For Scott, the shortage affects his bottom line as well – and his schedule.

“With the price being so high, no lumberyard wants to stock a whole lot of lumber right now, because they’re not wanting to put a whole lot of money into inventory,” he said. “So that slows our turnover down, and there’s a lot more time lagging with the supply chain. We’ve run into a lot of issues with our windows and door manufacturers just because they went to half staff during this whole deal.”

Scott put most of the blame for the shortages in lumber and other construction goods on the pandemic and other natural disasters in recent months.

“Our drywall has doubled in price because they’re shipping a lot of it down to Texas to repair all the damage that was done this spring,” he said, referring to the cold snap that caused pipes to freeze and burst. “And our PVC pipe is in short demand.”

The supply issues have caused Scott to change the way he schedules upcoming jobs.

“I’m at a point where I’m so tired of trying to play this catch up game,” he said. “We just had to kind of tell people we can’t take any more work at this time, partially because it’s right now it’s too hard to schedule that far out.”

Gould said from his perspective, a large part of the issue is political. He said he feels that the labor shortage is tied to higher unemployment benefits, which discourage potential employees from going back to work.

“I ordered one man an earth auger, to drill holes in the ground,” he said. “And (the seller) told me it was backordered until October. She told me that they don’t have enough workers in the factory to produce what people are purchasing. And why would they want to work? When they can make $1,600 on unemployment?”

‘It’s frustrating,” Scott said. “It adds a whole other level of stress that isn’t normally there. But we’ve got to figure out how to work through this and deal with it.”

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