Truck transportation jobs in the U.S. did something in June and July that they hadn’t done since the start of the pandemic: decline in both months.
Since truck transportation seasonally adjusted jobs posted declines of 4,100 jobs and 84,500 jobs in March and April 2020, respectively, the number of jobs in that sector reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics declined just six times. But three of those now have been in the past six months, and two of them were back to back in the most recent report.
July jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis came in at 1,604,300 jobs, a decline of 2,900 jobs from the revised June figure of 1,607,200 jobs.
The June figure was revised downward by 2,500 jobs. It was down 2,000 jobs from a revised May figure that was reduced by 200 jobs from what was posted last month.
The end results of the new July numbers and the revisions for May and June are that the truck transportation sector reported 4,900 fewer jobs in July than it had in May. It is at the lowest level of 2023 and is lower than every month going back to October 2022, when the BLS reported seasonally adjusted truck transportation jobs of 1,605,400 jobs.
The decrease in seasonally adjusted figures was in contrast to the increase in not seasonally adjusted jobs in the truck transportation sector. They were up 2,200 jobs from a revised June figure.
But that downward June revision of 1,400 jobs did not take a significant chunk out of the big increase between May and June that was initially reported. The end result is that July not seasonally adjusted jobs were up 13,200 jobs over the “final” May figure. The BLS can revise its figure for two months after the initial report and then the numbers are “final” until a possible revision in the report for January (which comes out in February) when a larger annual revision is implemented.
David Spencer, the vice president of market intelligence at Arrive Logistics, noted the declines in total jobs. The fact that total employment is at its lowest point since September 2022 is “a sign that poor trucking conditions are taking a toll on carriers,” he said.
And he did not see conditions reversing themselves anytime soon. “The decline in trucking employment has been the expectation for months now as rates have come down substantially, squeezing carrier profit margins,” Spencer said in an email to FreightWaves. “While carriers seemed more patient earlier in the year, recent months point to a shift in sentiment. Now, I expect to see employment continue to fall until rate conditions improve in a sustained way.”
Spencer added that since owner-operators leaving the industry would not be included in this data, the scope of the decline is probably larger than the figures suggest.
Other key points from the survey:
Given that the survey is conducted by the BLS in the first part of the month, a mass exodus from Yellow would not have been recorded in July. One note: Yellow management who lost their jobs would fall under the classification of “management of companies and enterprises,” so would not be in the truck transportation data next month, when the impact of Yellow’s closure would be expected to start hitting the numbers.
Hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers in the truck transportation sector were down 40 cents an hour, to $29.02. That figure is for June; the data is on a one-month lag. It’s only the sixth time since the start of the pandemic that the pay level declined.
Warehouse jobs continued their long decline. They were down to 1,899,500 jobs, a drop of 5,600 jobs from June. Warehouse jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis were 1,960,300 jobs in June 2022, which was the peak figure. Warehouse jobs were 1,933,200 jobs in January. The respective declines since then were 60,800 jobs since June 2022 and 33,700 jobs since January.
Rail jobs rose 200 jobs to 150,400 jobs. For an industry under pressure to add head count, it does mark the fourth consecutive month above 150,000 jobs, a level it had not been at since before the pandemic. But it would still need to add 4,400 jobs to get to the level of April 2020, just when the pandemic hit. And to get back to July 2019 numbers, it would need to add 25,400 jobs.
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