Trucking job growth hits a snag in December

January 7, 2022

Tyson Fisher

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Despite a supply chain crisis exacerbating employment issues within the trucking industry, trucking jobs remained mostly stagnant in December.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 300 more trucking jobs were added to the economy last month. December marks the slowest growth for trucking employment for the year. Only two months experienced job losses: February (minus 1,800) and May (minus 800).

However, updated data reveals there were 7,700 more trucking jobs added in November, about 2,000 more than previously reported. For the year, trucking employment was up more than 40,000 jobs last year after suffering a loss of 42,500 the previous year.

Although there are more jobs in December 2021 than December 2020 and 2019, suppressed growth narrowly missed hitting the mark established just before the start of the pandemic. In February 2020, there were about 1,524,800 trucking jobs. Last month, trucking employment reached 1,523,300.

A surge in COVID-19 cases has the potential to move that number down. The Department of Labor compiled the current data in mid-December, when there were about 130,000 active COVID-19 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID case chart as it related to trucking jobs
Data from the CDC reveal a surge in COVID-19 cases.  Whether that affects trucking jobs remains to be seen.

By Jan. 3, there were nearly 1 million cases being reported in the United States. That major swing may have put some truckers on the sideline, which will be reflected when the Labor Department revises the numbers next month.

The transportation sector as a whole is experiencing similar sluggish job growth. Nearly 19,000 transport jobs were added in December. The sector has been experiences employment increases ranging from 24,000 to 67,000 since June. Subsectors with the most significant growth include support activities for transportation (up 7,400), air transport (up 6,000) and warehousing/storage (up 5,000). Remaining subsectors experienced minor job losses or gains of less than 1,000.

Over the last 12 months, transportation jobs are up by more than 373,000 after losing nearly 574,000 jobs in May 2020 alone. The sector surpassed pre-pandemic job numbers in August and is maintaining record-high employment.

Slow growth is the theme across the entire U.S. economy. About 200,000 vacant job positions were filled in December, the slowest growth all year. Job growth averaged 537,000 per month in 2021. However, the unemployment rate dropped by 0.3 percentage points to 3.9%. In February 2020, just before the pandemic took hold, the employment rate was 3.5%.

In December 2020, there was an 8.8% unemployment rate in the transportation sector. That rate is now sitting lower at 5.3%. LL

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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.