Trucking jobs surge in March despite current downcycle

April 5, 2024

Tyson Fisher


So far this year, trucking jobs are off to a strong start, with employment in the industry receiving a significant bump in March.

According to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 5,000 trucking jobs were added to the economy in March. This marks the largest increase since September when jobs went up by 8,000, and the second largest increase since last June (up 5,600).

David Spencer, vice president of market intelligence at Arrive Logistics, called March’s surge in trucking jobs “baffling.” He said that steady growth over the last several months suggests carriers are investing in drivers, expecting a turn in trucking conditions. However, Spencer warns this increase in drivers can have unintended consequences.

“Lower equipment prices, some relief at the pumps and a somewhat active spot market early in Q1 may be what is enabling fleets to feel comfortable with these additions,” Spencer told Land Line. “Moving forward, I still expect relatively stable trucking employment due to an outlook for a stable demand environment, despite the market remaining oversupplied and recent growth. As noted in prior months, this increase in driver employment may actually lead to an extension of the current market cycle as significant demand growth appears to be an unlikely driver of a market shift this year.”

Revised numbers reveal a better start to the year than initially reported, with an increase of 1,200 trucking jobs in February (compared to the initially reported loss of 300) and a gain of 800 jobs in January (compared to the initially reported loss of 300).

Three months in, trucking jobs are up by more than 7,000 in 2024. At this time last year, more than 9,000 jobs were eliminated from the economy. Last year, the trucking sector lost more than 35,000 jobs.

Accounting for all transportation sector jobs, employment rose by a modest 1,200 jobs.

The transportation sector’s net increase was largely the result of the jump in trucking jobs, followed by increases in support activities for transportation (1,500) and water transportation (1,500). Only three subsectors experienced a net loss in employment in March: warehousing/storage (minus 5,500), couriers/messengers (minus 1,400) and scenic/sightseeing transportation (minus 700). Employment in all other transportation subsectors was mostly stagnant.

Like the trucking subsector, revised numbers paint a prettier picture of the opening months of 2024 for the transport sector as a whole. Employment increased by 22,500 in February, up from the previously reported gain of nearly 20,000 jobs. However, January’s revised numbers show a decrease of nearly 4,000 jobs, down sharply from the initially reported loss of 29,000.

So far this year, transportation jobs are up by 20,000. In 2023, 17,500 jobs were lost by March and nearly 69,000 jobs were eliminated for the year.

Month to month, wages increased in March. Average weekly earnings of all employees in the transportation and warehousing sector went up by $14.88 to $1,173.12. Compared to March 2023, hourly earnings increased to $30.55 from $28.83. Accounting for only production and nonsupervisory employees, average weekly earnings increased from $1,091.25 in February to $1,098.47. Hourly earnings increased by $1.61 from March 2023 to $29.06.

Across all industries, 303,000 jobs were added to the economy. The unemployment rate dropped 0.1 percentage points to 3.8%. Compared to the previous year, the unemployment rate for transportation and material-moving occupations decreased from 5.8% to 5.7%.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price index has jumped by 3.2% over the past 12 months. The 0.4% increase in February was broad-based, with the indexes for shelter, gasoline and food being the largest contributors. The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.4%, up 3.8% over the year. LL