Trucking employment down for first time in nine months

March 5, 2021

Tyson Fisher


Revised numbers reveal that trucking employment in January was actually up, however preliminary numbers for February show the first monthly decline in nine months.

Trucking employment fell with 4,000 jobs lost, breaking a nine-month streak of increases. The last decrease was last April after stay-at-home orders were implemented, resulting in nearly 90,000 trucking jobs getting eliminated. Last month, preliminary numbers showed a job loss of nearly 3,000 in January. However, revised numbers reveal a slight increase of 800 jobs.

Employment numbers for February and January are preliminary.

The trucking subsector had a net loss of 42,500 jobs in 2020. This is far from the largest annual decrease. In 2009, more than 100,000 trucking jobs were lost preceded by employment being down by 76,500 jobs in 2008 during the Great Recession. In 2001, another recession year, trucking jobs fell by more than 49,000. Revised numbers show an annual job loss of nearly 2,000 in 2019, a big swing from the previously reported employment increase of more than 4,000.

Compared to the end of 2020, trucking employment is down more than 3,000 jobs. This time last year, there was an increase of more than 3,000 jobs.

The transport sector had a modest gain of 4,400 jobs in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This marks the first increase after two consecutive months of job losses, including more than 14,000 in January and more than 43,000 in December.

Half of the transportation subsectors experienced employment losses, with air transport suffering the most with more than 8,000 fewer jobs, followed by trucking and warehousing/storage (minus 1,100). Couriers/messengers and transit/ground passenger transport helped pare those losses with a gain of about 9,000 jobs each.

The transportation sector experienced a job loss of nearly 93,000 last year. Like trucking employment, the transportation sector as a whole had worse years in 2009 (minus 273,800), 2008 (minus 153,800) and 2001 (minus 235,700). Year to date, the transport sector is down nearly 10,000 jobs, compared to an increase of more than 62,000 jobs last February.

Average hourly earnings for the transportation and warehousing sector were $25.72 for February – a 7-cent increase from the previous month. Earnings were up by 67 cents from February 2020. Hourly earnings for production/nonsupervisory jobs was down 4 cents to $22.96, but increased by 29 cents year to year. Average hourly earnings for private, nonfarm payrolls across all industries were $30.01, a 7-cent increase from the previous month.

The unemployment rate for transportation and material-moving occupations went up to 9.5% compared to January’s rate of 9.1%. At this time last year, the unemployment rate in the transport sector was sitting at 5.5%.

Overall unemployment fell slightly from 6.3% to 6.2%, after the economy gained 379,000 jobs in February. The jobless rate is still up 2.7 percentage points from last February, just before the implementation of stay-at-home orders. However, unemployment has fallen by 8.6 percentage points since April. LL

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.