Furniture Manufacturing Workers


Employment Prospects


There are approximately 115,900 cabinetmakers and bench carpenters, 21,200 furniture finishers, 38,300 upholsterers, and 80,500 woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders (except sawing) in the United States. Furniture manufacturing workers are employed at a variety of companies, depending on the particular position held. Most industry employees work at furniture manufacturing firms, but some find jobs at repair establishments or restoration shops. Although cabinetmakers and upholsters usually work at such companies, many find a variety of other employment opportunities. Cabinetmakers, for example, are often self-employed, although some work at construction companies or cabinetmaking contracting firms. Upholsterers, on the other hand, may work at textile companies, for interior designers, at large furniture stores, or in the wholesale or retail trade. Like cabinetmakers, upholsterers are commonly self-employed, with about 35 percent in business for himself or herself.

Geographically, woodworking production jobs are found mostly in the southern or northwestern United States, near supplies of wood, but furniture makers are more commonly found in the southeast. More than 35 states have furniture-manufacturing plants, with major centers located in Jamestown, New York; Tupelo, Mississippi; Grand Rapids, Michigan; High Point, North Carolina; and Hickory, North Carolina.

Custom shops are located throughout the United States, although most are established near highly populated areas. Similarly, most upholsterers work in big cities, where large populations create the greatest demand for their work. Fifty-one percent are employed in North Carolina, Mississippi, California, Indiana, andTexas.

Starting Out

If you want to work in the furniture manufacturing industry, the most effective way is to apply directly to manufacturing plants, repair firms, or restoration shops. In addition, you should make a habit of scanning your local paper (either in print or online), where employers often place help-wanted ads. Some companies list available positions with local employment agencies, while others post information about openings in furniture stores or on the job bulletin boards commonly found at technical or vocational schools, as well as at community colleges.

Aspiring upholsterers or cabinetmakers may be able to find custom shops that are looking for helpers. Most of these specialized outfits hire beginners as general assistants, allowing them to learn a variety of invaluable skills under the guidance of experienced employees. Finally, if you're interested in specializing in a particular area of furniture manufacturing, especially upholstery, you may want to consider an apprenticeship. The Employment and Training Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration can arrange such an apprenticeship for qualified applicants who are at least 16 years old.

Advancement Prospects

Advancement opportunities in the furniture manufacturing industry are often limited and usually depend on employee skills, seniority, and job availability. In addition, larger companies tend to offer more possibilities for promotions than their smaller counterparts.

Beginning as stock movers, helpers, or assistants, unskilled workers can become semi-skilled machine operators and then skilled finishers or assemblers. Some employees move up to jobs as pattern or sample makers, the most skilled and highest paid floor positions in the industry.

With considerable on-the-job training, some employees advance to become inspectors or supervisors. Others who take on additional responsibilities, attend industry workshops, or complete college programs can move into management positions.

Employees with creative ability can advance to work as furniture designers. And highly skilled veterans with self-discipline and ambition often establish their own shops. These self-employed entrepreneurs find, however, that investment in tools and equipment is required and that competition for business is frequently fierce.

Tips for Entry

Read Furniture Today (, International Wood (, and Furniture World Magazine ( to learn more about the industry.

Join unions to increase your chances of landing a job and receiving fair pay for your work.

Be willing to relocate. It may open more job opportunities.