Freight recession notwithstanding, the truck transportation sector in the U.S. is continuing to add jobs.
In the report released Friday for April data, the seasonally adjusted jobs total for the truck transportation sector rose 3,000 jobs, to 1,612,500 jobs. That came after a downward adjustment from the initially reported number for March, down 2,500 jobs to 1,609,50 jobs.
The end result is that a month ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics was reporting that there were 1,612,000 jobs. The total is now only 500 jobs more than that, but it’s 3,000 jobs higher after the revision.
The increase means that this streak of monthly job gains in truck transportation that has only been interrupted a handful of times since the April 2020 collapse due to the start of the pandemic continues apace. In the 35 months since April 2020, there have only been four months when a decrease in job in truck transportation jobs was reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A look at the 121 months before March 2020 — as far as the BLS data goes back on its website — shows just how strong the run of job additions has been. Between May 2020 and April 2023, the months that have reported a decline in truck transportation jobs are 11.4% of the total. In those 121 months before March 2020, the first month that is likely to have shown pandemic-related declines, the percentage of months that had a decrease in truck transportation jobs was 21.4%.
The strength of the job growth in truck transportation, according to David Spencer, the vice president of market intelligence at Arrive Logistics, “has continued to defy expectations.”
“The growth is likely driven by a combination of owner-operator capacity having stuck it out longer than expected on their own and now finally making the shift to company jobs, as well as seeing growth to support areas seeing growing truckload demand, such as non-single-family housing construction and oil and gas drilling,” Spencer said in an email to FreightWaves.
Given that the truck transportation jobs increase has been almost a monthly occurrence, what was more notable in the report was the return of job growth to the warehouse sector for the first time since June 2022.
Warehousing and storage jobs rose to 1,925,900 jobs from 1,921,900 jobs. That March number in turn was revised upward from 1,910,600 jobs, and the February number was moved up to 1,928,400 jobs. But the revised March number is still below the revised February number so that jobs in the sector in April are still down from where they were in February.
Aaron Terrazas, the chief economist at Glassdoor who previously had been at Convoy, said the warehouse numbers were what jumped out at him.
“It’s natural for trucking firms to add to payrolls at this point in the business cycle, but the fact that the warehousing sector saw gains after almost a year in the red suggests that perhaps we’ve reached a trough when it comes to e-commerce capacity rightsizing,” Terrazas said in an email to FreightWaves.
The total employment report overall was considered strong, with job growth in April at 253,000 jobs after an increase of 165,000 jobs in March, which was a revision from the first report of 236,000 jobs.
Terrazas said in his commentary that the growth was cause for concern.
The jobs increase in April, he wrote, continues a “string of months of repeatedly appearing to resist gravity. Employers continued to hire across the economy — including in white-collar sectors that had been expected to slow sharply.”
And that increases the chances, Terrazas said, of further interest rate increases in coming months even after the Fed has signaled a pause.
Among the other highlights from the report:
The not seasonally adjusted numbers for truck transportation jobs showed even bigger gains than the seasonally adjusted figures. Total jobs there rose 12,600 jobs, to 1,594,900 jobs. February and March figures were revised downward but even after that, the April total is 14,900 jobs more than the revised February figure.
The BLS reports data on a one-month lag for specific subsectors of trucking. In the category of long-distance truckload, figures for January through March were running at about 550,000, after a drop from December to January, suggesting that exits of capacity are not happening as much as has been predicted.
Rail jobs, after a few months of significant gains in the past year, have stabilized on a seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted basis. The April number came in at 149,900 jobs. That was up 100 jobs from March and up 200 jobs from a revised February figure. Not seasonally adjusted figures differed little from that.
Courier jobs are trending higher. There were 1,118,900 jobs in that sector in April, down from 1,116,800 jobs in March and up from 1,111,400 jobs in February. However, the trend prior to that was down so that April 2023 jobs were still less than the 1,131,800 jobs recorded in April a year ago.
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