Trucking employment up for fifth consecutive month

October 2, 2020

Tyson Fisher

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Transportation and trucking employment continued to recover in September, gradually climbing out of a deep hole established in April amid the global pandemic.

The transport sector gained nearly 74,000 jobs in September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This marks the fourth consecutive monthly increase after four consecutive decreases, including a historic monthly drop in April.

Trucking jobs also went up, with a gain of nearly 5,000 after an increase of 10,000 trucking jobs in August. This marks the fifth consecutive increase in trucking jobs and the seventh monthly increase this year.

April’s trucking job loss was the largest since the bureau began tracking the subsector in 1990. At a distant second, nearly 50,000 trucking jobs were eliminated in April 1994. That was likely the result of about 80,000 Teamsters going on strike after negotiations with Truck Management Inc. failed.

Employment numbers for September and August are preliminary.

Warehousing/storage employment experienced the largest increase for the second consecutive month, with more than 32,000 additional jobs in the economy. Coming in second for a second consecutive month is transit/ground passenger transport (21,400), followed by couriers/messengers (10,300). Only two subsectors experienced a monthly decrease in employment. There were 1,600 fewer air transport jobs in September as well as 300 fewer pipeline transport jobs.

The trucking subsector had a net gain of more than 4,000 jobs last year, a far cry from the nearly 55,000 job increase in 2018. However, the employment situation last year is better than 2016’s loss of 4,000 jobs.

To date, trucking employment is down 73,600 jobs due to April’s downward spiral.

At about 1.45 million jobs, this sets trucking employment back to numbers last seen in 2017. However, this is a significant improvement from July when the number of trucking jobs reached levels last reported in November 2014.

The transportation sector had a net gain of more than 118,000 jobs in 2019. Last year was the slowest year for growth since 2013, when transportation employment increased by only 77,500 for the year.

So far, transportation jobs are down nearly 255,000 for the year. This is an improvement from the more than 400,000 jobs lost year to date in July. In April alone, the sector lost nearly 560,000 jobs.

Average hourly earnings for the transportation and warehousing sector were $25.51 for September – an increase of 2 cents. Earnings were up by 57 cents from September 2019.

Hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory jobs dropped by a dime to $23.18 from the previous month but increased by 66 cents year to year. Average hourly earnings for private, nonfarm payrolls across all industries were $29.47, a 2-cent increase from the previous month.

The large employment fluctuations over the past several months – especially in industries with lower-paid workers – complicate the analysis of recent trends in average hourly earnings, the report states.

According to the report, the unemployment rate for transportation and material-moving occupations went down to 10.7% compared to August’s rate of 12.1%. At this time last year, the unemployment rate in the transport sector was sitting at 4.4%.

Overall unemployment fell to 7.9%, with 661,000 jobs added to the economy as a whole. In August, unemployment hit 8.4%. The unemployment rate has been falling for five consecutive months after hitting a record high of nearly 15% in April. The jobless rate is still up 4.4 percentage points from February, just before the implementation of stay-at-home orders.

Workers who are paid by their employer for all or any part of the pay period are counted as employed, even if they were not actually at their jobs. Workers who are temporarily or permanently absent from their jobs and are not being paid are not counted as employed, even if they are continuing to receive benefits.

In March, April and May, many people were misclassified as employed for pandemic-related reasons. June’s report includes modifications to survey questions and answers, resulting in fewer misclassifications. The share of responses that may have been misclassified was much smaller in July, August and September than in prior months.

For March through August, the federal government published an estimate of what the unemployment rate would have been had misclassified workers been included. Repeating this same approach, the overall September unemployment rate would have been 0.4 percentage point higher than reported. For a detailed explanation about how the pandemic has affected the monthly employment survey, click here.  LL

Tyson Fisher

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.