Revised data reveals improved trucking employment situation

February 4, 2022

Tyson Fisher


The Bureau of Labor Statistics has updated the last five years of employment data, and the revised numbers tell a much more positive story for trucking employment.

According to the most recent employment situation report from the federal government, the number of trucking jobs lost during the pandemic is far less than initially reported. Revised data reveals that nearly 79,000 trucking jobs were eliminated in April 2020. Previously, that number was thought to be nearly 88,000 trucking jobs.

Recovery from the pandemic also occurred at a quicker pace. Initially, the Department of Labor reported an increase of less than 1,000 jobs in May 2020. That number is now 11,500 more trucking jobs in May 2020. However, trucking job increases throughout the rest of 2020 were more modest than previously reported.

Nevertheless, trucking jobs have increased every month since May 2020, a 21-month growth streak. Before data was updated, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported two months of job losses, nearly 2,000 in February 2021 and nearly 1,000 in May 2021.

Improved numbers suggest that trucking employment returned to pre-pandemic levels last June. In February 2020, just before the pandemic took hold, there were 1,515,400 job in the trucking subsector. In June 2021, there were 1,516,800 trucking jobs. Older data shows 1,524,800 trucking jobs in February 2020. That number would not be reached again until just now, with January’s trucking jobs estimated to be at 1,549,200.

Revised data also reveals a seven-month losing streak for trucking employment toward the end of 2019 into January 2020.

Conversely, updated numbers show a 19-month growth streak that began in December 2017. Previous data showed a few months of decreases during that time frame.

Zooming in to Bureau of Labor Statistic’s latest report released on Friday, trucking employment increased by 7,500 jobs in January compared to the previous month. Trucking jobs are up by 64,000 compared with last January. For 2021, more than 57,000 trucking jobs were added to the economy, after suffering a 30,000-job loss in 2020.

Trucking employment numbers for December and January are preliminary and likely to change.

For the transportation sector as a whole, revised numbers tell a similar story. Nearly 500,000 transport jobs were lost in April 2020, nearly 76,000 fewer jobs lost than previously thought. Employment in the transportation sector is also experiencing a 21-month growth streak. The sector also experienced a 22-month growth streak that began in February 2017. Transport jobs surpassed pre-pandemic levels in November 2020.

In January, employment in the transportation sector grew by more than 54,000 jobs, the largest monthly increase since an increase of nearly 65,000 jobs last February. Compared to last January, there are nearly 456,000 more transport jobs. Following a 101,000-job loss in 2020, transportation jobs increased by nearly 435,000 last year.

Throughout the entire U.S. economy, the unemployment rate increased slightly from 3.9% to 4% with 6.5 million people unemployed after adding 467,000 jobs to the economy. Over the year, the unemployment rate is down by 2.4 percentage points. The number of unemployed persons declined by 3.7 million. In February 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, and unemployed persons numbered 5.7 million.

For the transportation sector, the unemployment rate is 6.3%, down sharply from last year’s 9.1% unemployment rate. In February 2020, the transportation sector unemployment rate was at 5.5%.

Before getting too excited about the positive numbers, Convoy points out that revised data reflects the 2020 Census results.

“Looking beyond the topline numbers and blurry month-over-month changes hints at a more worrisome trend: In response to supply chain chaos over the past two years, the bulk of the trucking industry appears to have invested most heavily in expanding manager and operations headcounts, rather than in front-line drivers or productivity-enhancing science and engineering roles,” Aaron Terrazas, Convoy’s director of economic research, states in his analysis. “Anyone with a pulse on the trucking industry will be skeptical of the surge in freight payrolls in January, at least on the scale that the BLS data suggest.” LL