Trucking jobs are down again

Trucking jobs are down again

Total trucking jobs fell for the fourth time in five months. (Photo: Jim Allen/Freight Waves)

Employment in the trucking sector in October hit its fourth decline in the past five months with total jobs in that classification now down more than 30,000 since their recent high.

The decline of 5,000 seasonally adjusted jobs reported by the BLS for October was actually a smaller decline than in July and August. With revisions in place for September and August, the past five months have recorded declines of 1,400 jobs in June, 6,900 in July, 30,700 in August – when Yellow Corp’s demise first hit the market – and 5,000 in October. There was an increase of 13,400 jobs in September, suggesting that the BLS may have weathered the impact of Yellow’s closure.

The latest report, released Friday, revised September’s trucking total by 900 jobs, but August’s total was reduced by 5,500 jobs from the previous month.

After all the changes, October’s total trucking jobs of 1,578,600 is 30,600 below the high in May, when the BLS reported 1,609,200 jobs.

While economists generally look at seasonally adjusted data, they caution not to ignore numbers that are not seasonally adjusted. Total non-seasonally adjusted trucking jobs in October were 1,589,700, unchanged from September. The September figure was revised down by 2,000 jobs.

This stabilization in the non-seasonally adjusted number “suggests that carriers involved in supporting peak retail season or other seasonal demand, such as food or Christmas trees, may have pulled back this year from their normal hiring ramp-up and are comfortable with the situation,” said David Spencer, vice president. “Dealing with seasonal increases in demand with existing staffing,” Arrive Logistics Market Intelligence said in an email to FreightWaves.

Spencer pointed to the excess capacity that many have cited as the reason for the stagnation in the freight market, which he sees as more of a function of the many drivers and trucks that have not yet exited the market. He said he expects further declines in employment.

“The three- and four-month trends continue to highlight job cuts of 22,000 and 29,000 jobs respectively, a trend that I expect to continue into 2024,” Spencer said. “Large volumes of drivers entered the market when there was money to be made in the spot market and balance must be restored before conditions improve.”

The last time seasonally adjusted trucking jobs were this low was in April 2022, when they reached 1,571,700. A month later, it was up by 12,100 jobs.

In other points of the report:

  • There was a significant difference between seasonally adjusted and seasonally unadjusted positions in storage. The October figure for non-seasonally adjusted warehouse jobs was 1,902,000 jobs, a significant jump of 32,400 jobs from September (which in turn was adjusted upward by 3,300 jobs). But seasonally adjusted jobs in the warehouse sector fell by 11,400 jobs to 1,871,000. The changes put the gap between seasonally adjusted and non-seasonally adjusted jobs at 31,000. The end result of these changes is that seasonally adjusted warehouse jobs peaked last year at 1,960,300 in June. They are now 89,300 jobs short of that.
  • Labor costs in trucking have decreased. Hourly earnings for all employees fell to $30.49 in September; The data runs on a lag of one month. This represents a reduction of 19 cents per hour. The last peak was $31 per hour in July.
  • While hiring at Class I railroads has been described as a “mixed bag,” the overall picture released by the BLS is one of stability. The last three months after revisions were reported at 150,200 jobs. A year ago the number of jobs was 147,600, but that hiring surge appears to have faded for now.

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