Looking into 2020 | Woodworking & Manufacturing Outlook

Posted on: January 20, 2020

Yearly PlannerThe start of a new year, especially a new decade, is a great time to look back on the past year and also explore economic predictions. This last quarter brought many industry reports of economic projections for 2020 and beyond. We’ve heard predictions of a positive economic outlook to a depression in the 2030s. Of course, the political climate plays a large role in economic success. Tariffs on Chinese products have affected some companies in our industry. And, the results of the 2020 presidential election can certainly impact the economy.


In 2019, the United States experienced the lowest unemployment rates of the decade. In November, the U.S. unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 266,000 jobs that month; 54,000 were in manufacturing, according to the BLS. Seventy-six percent of those manufacturing jobs were in the automotive sector, which reflected the return of workers previously on strike. In the past 10 years, the employment rate has continuously decreased, with the highest unemployment rate at 10.0 percent in October 2009.

With the employment rate so low, it is safe to say that employees who want to work have found jobs. That makes it challenging for companies to find and retain skilled employees. One reason our customers may outsource their manufacturing to Cooper Enterprises is because they may have a shortage of skilled labor. Outsourcing can be easier than hiring.

Recommended further reading: Ending the year at a torrid hiring pace by David Payne of Kiplinger and 21 states raise minimum wage in 2020 by Robert Dalheim of Woodworking Network


Storage RetrievalIn the past decade, automation has been heavily adopted by companies in order to increase efficiency. One example of new automation in the woodworking industry is material handling systems. These systems are common in Europe and are gaining popularity in the United States.

For Cooper Enterprises, perhaps the most important pieces of technology are our CNC machines with multiple heads.

Additionally, we can expect that artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) will gradually be embraced in the industry to enhance customer experiences.

What technology are you looking to adopt in 2020? We’d love to hear your thoughts!


We’ve all heard how online shopping could threaten sales at brick-and-mortar retail stores. Yet, in 2019, we’ve seen a rise in “clicks-to-bricks” retailers, where formerly online-only retailers have opened physical locations. An example is UNTUCKit. Physical stores, and surely wood store fixtures, are not going away; they are just evolving. Interactive and digital experiences will be among the shelves of more retailers.

Other markets in our industry have optimistic futures as well. For instance, the demand for millwork is expected to rise 2.4 percent annually for the next three years, Woodworking Network reports.

Recommended further reading: Retail evolving by Surface & Panel and Woodworking industry experts offer forecasts for 2020 by William Sampson and Karen M. Koening of Woodworking Network

2020 Events

There are many 2020 events to look forward to, including IWF! The biennial International Woodworking Fair (IWF) takes place this year in August. We love to exhibit at IWF and look forward to seeing the industry’s new trends and technologies in Atlanta.

2020 industry events include (but are not limited to):

  • AWI Spring Leadership Conference, March 8
  • Cabinets & Closets Conference and Expo, March 11
  • NeoCon, June 8
  • RetailX, June 9
  • *IWF, August 25
  • *AWI Annual Convention, September 30
  • Wood Pro Expo Lancaster, October 15

*Cooper Enterprises will be exhibiting at these events.

What are your predictions or resolutions for 2020? Let us know here.

Disclaimer: Product mentions and links in this article do not imply endorsement; they are provided as examples and sources for further exploration.

Blog by Rachel Brumenschenkel, Marketing Specialist

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