Trucking employment looks very similar to 2019 so far

March 6, 2020

Tyson Fisher


Preliminary employment numbers reveal that the trucking subsector is on a similar path as 2019. Job counts are nearly identical for January and February compared to the previous year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly report.

The transport sector lost 4,000 jobs in February, mainly the result of a significant drop in couriers/messengers jobs. However, the net loss was buoyed by a large increase in the warehousing/storage subsector.

The trucking subsector experienced a gain of 1,700 after gaining 1,300 jobs in January. This marks the largest monthly increase since October, when jobs also went up by 1,700.

In 2019, there were 1,527,900 trucking job in January, and 1,700 more in February. This year started off with 1,527,700 jobs in January, followed by a 1,700 job increase. Essentially, the trucking subsector is breaking even over the last 12 months.

Numbers for February and January are preliminary.

Couriers/messengers experienced the largest decrease with 12,200 fewer jobs in the economy, followed by rail transport (-2,000) and pipeline transport (-600). Warehousing/storage jobs went up by more than 5,000, the largest increase in February, followed by trucking and air transport (1,700). Water transport employment remained unchanged.

All employment numbers for 2019 are finalized.

The trucking subsector had a net gain of more than 4,000 jobs last year, an increase of a few hundred from last month’s preliminary numbers. Although still a far cry from the nearly 55,000 job increase in 2018, the employment situation last year is better than 2016’s loss of 4,000 jobs.

Updated numbers also reveal changes for the transportation and warehousing sector. The sector had a net gain of more than 118,000 jobs in 2019, slightly down from the 124,000 jobs reported last month. Rather than being the slowest annual growth since the recession, 2019 was the slowest year since 2013 when transportation jobs increased by only 77,500 for the year.

Compared to the previous month, there was a net increase in trucking jobs in every month in 2019 except August, September and December. January accounted for the largest one-month increase, with nearly 6,000 jobs in the subsector added to the economy. The largest decrease was in August with nearly 4,000 fewer jobs.

Average hourly earnings for the transportation and warehousing sector were $25.13 for February – a significant 16-cent increase from January. Earnings were up 61 cents from February 2019.

Hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory jobs increased by 14 cents to $22.72 from the previous month and up 54 cents year to year. Average hourly earnings for private, nonfarm payrolls across all industries were $28.52, a 9-cent increase from the previous month. Compared with a year ago, average earnings have gone up by 3%.

According to the report, the unemployment rate for transportation and material-moving occupations jumped to 5.5% compared with January’s rate of 4.6%. This time last year, the unemployment rate in the transport sector was slightly lower at 5.1%. Overall unemployment decreased slightly by 0.1 percentage points to 3.5%.