Trucking jobs nearing pre-pandemic numbers

December 3, 2021

Tyson Fisher


During a supply chain crisis that is causing a surge in demand for truck drivers, employment in trucking is nearly where it was in February 2020.

According to the Labor Department,  there are nearly 6,000 more drivers than there were a month ago. For the first time, employment in trucking is higher than it was in March 2020 when the impacts of the coronavirus began to hit. The industry is down only a few thousand drivers compared to February 2020, the month before stay-at-home orders were first implemented. Last April alone, the industry lost nearly 90,000 trucking jobs.

Older drivers are leading the charge in the owner-operator sector of the trucking industry, according to a Convoy analysis. Specifically, the digital freight broker claims increases in owner-operators are largely the result of truckers 58 and older.

Trucking jobs chart

“The number of baby boomer (born 1946-63) owner-operators declined in 2019 and 2020, in part due to early retirements during the soft freight market of that era,” Aaron Terrazas, Convoy’s director of economic research, stated in his analysis. “For a brief period during late 2020 and early 2021, the number of millennial (born 1980-95) owner-operators exceeded the number of baby boomers, but that trend has since reverted. Among owner-operators, baby boomers again are more numerous than millennials.”

Year to date, there has been a net increase of more than 42,000 trucking jobs.

Employment in the industry went up every month except February and May.

Accounting for the entire transportation sector, employment is up by nearly 50,000 jobs. The sector regained its pre-pandemic footing in August. Employment in transportation has been rising all year, except for a dip in February. At 6.1%, the unemployment rate for the transportation sector did not budge much. However, it is still well below the 9.3% rate last November.

For the U.S. economy as a whole, employment is way short of expectations. Nearly 600,000 more jobs were expected to be filled in November. Instead, just over 200,000 jobs are no longer vacant.

Despite sluggish growth, the unemployment rate is falling faster. The latest data reveals a 4.2% unemployment rate, 0.4 percentage points lower than October. However, the unemployment situation is still worse than just before the pandemic. The unemployment rate in February 2020 was only 3.5%. 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.