Trucking jobs surge in August, continuing employment growth streak

September 4, 2020

Tyson Fisher

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Both trucking jobs and transportation employment surged in August, establishing a growth streak after historic decreases from the pandemic.

The transport sector gained more than 78,000 jobs in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This marks the third consecutive monthly increase after four consecutive decreases, including a historic monthly drop in April.

Trucking jobs also went up with a gain of 10,000 after an increase of more than 2,000 trucking jobs in July. The increase is the largest since August 2018, when trucking jobs went up by more than 11,000. This marks the fourth consecutive increase in trucking jobs and the sixth 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 August and July are preliminary.

Warehousing/storage employment experienced the largest increase with more than 34,000 additional jobs in the economy. Coming in second is transit/ground passenger transport (11,400), followed by trucking. Only two subsectors experienced a monthly decrease in employment, and they were small. There were 200 fewer pipeline transport jobs in August as well as 100 fewer water 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 82,000 jobs due to April’s downward spiral.

At about 1.4 million jobs, this sets trucking employment back to numbers last seen in January 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 more than 320,000 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 $25.52 for August – an increase of 9 cents. Earnings were up by 59 cents from August 2019.

Hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory jobs skyrocketed by 76 cents to $23.33 from the previous month and increased by 79 cents year to year. Average hourly earnings for private, nonfarm payrolls across all industries were $29.47, an 11-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 12.1% compared to July’s rate of 15.3%. At this time last year, the unemployment rate in the transport sector was sitting at 5.7%.

Overall unemployment fell to 8.4%, with 1.4 million jobs added to the economy as a whole. In July, unemployment hit 10.2%. The unemployment rate has been falling for four consecutive months after hitting a record high of nearly 15% in April. The jobless rate is still up 4.9 percentage points compared to February, just before stay-at-home orders were put in place.

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 and August than in prior months. For a detailed explanation about how the pandemic has affected the monthly employment survey, click here.

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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.