Montana Fiberboard Plant Cutting Jobs

Plum Creek Timber Co. is cutting 35 positions because of shrinking demand for boards produced at its plant in Columbia Falls.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- Roughly 19 percent of the production workers at a Plum Creek Timber Co. plant in northwestern Montana will lose their jobs in late September when about 35 positions are cut, the company announced Thursday.

The positions paying an average of $18 an hour will end on Sept. 29 because of shrinking demand for boards produced at the plant in Columbia Falls, the company said. The plant manufactures medium-density fiberboard, which is made from wood waste and used in a variety of products, including cabinetry, flooring and doors.

Reversals in the housing market led to the reduced demand, Seattle-based Plum Creek said. In July, construction of homes and apartments in the United States fell to the lowest level in more than 17 years.

The company employs 185 production workers at the Columbia Falls plant. Employees losing their jobs may apply for positions at other Plum Creek operations in Columbia Falls and in Evergreen, near Kalispell, the company said. Plum Creek said those not hired will get severance benefits.

Operation of the fiberboard plant will continue around the clock but will drop from seven days a week to five, spokeswoman Kathy Budinick said. Apart from "down days here and there," the upcoming reduction will mark the first time shifts and schedules have changed since the plant expanded in 2002, Budinick said.

As of July, Montana had an estimated 4,200 jobs in wood products manufacturing, according to the Montana Department of Labor & Industry. Preliminary calculations indicate the number of jobs in that sector fell by about 300 from July 2007, the agency said. Losses included closure of the Stimson Lumber Co. plant near Missoula, where jobs of the final 100 employees ended in the spring.

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