DIXFIELD – About 190 employees at Irving’s Forest Products mill have been out of work this week, and are expected to be laid off again for a week at a time in February and March.

Irving spokeswoman Mary Keith said from the company’s headquarters in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, that the shutdowns would reduce inventory. The mill is feeling the effects of the decline in the home-building and housing markets.

“There’s been a drop in demand and prices,” Keith said Wednesday. “We’re trying to mitigate this as much as we can. We have a good work force.”

The mill employs 215 people, most of them hourly people. A skeleton crew of 25 has been working this week and is expected to work again during the weeks of Feb. 16 and March 16, Keith said.

The Dixfield mill was closed for two weeks over the Christmas holidays, which she said was typical. At that time, new equipment was installed.

Because employees served the one-week waiting period during the holiday shutdown, they’ll be able to collect unemployment for this week, and the two weeks later, she said.

The Dixfield plant turns out eastern white pine lumber used in construction, paneling, siding and industrial packaging.

Keith said staff levels have remained at 215 since 2005. Irving purchased the plant and increased the number of employees more than a decade ago.

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