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Trucking Adds 2,500 Jobs in January, Second Jump in 3 Months, Labor Says
Monday, 15 February 2010 00:00

The trucking industry added 2,500 jobs during January, the second monthly rise in the past three months, as the national unemployment rate dropped to 9.7% from 10% in December, the Labor Department reported Feb. 5.

Labor’s monthly employment report said the economy lost 20,000 jobs in January, with much of the employment decline tallied in construction, transportation and warehousing, while temporary help services and retail trade added jobs.

In January, transportation and warehousing lost 19,000 jobs, mainly because of large employment losses among couriers and messengers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Jobs in “truck transportation,” however, increased to 1,232,900 in January from 1,230,400 in December.

“The fact that for-hire carriers added any jobs in January is a good sign,” Bob Costello, chief economist of American Trucking Associations, told Transport Topics. “However, the increase must be put into context. Specifically, it doesn’t even come close to offsetting December’s cut . . . of 12,900.” Trucking added 2,500 jobs in November.

Costello also cautioned that the government data are “highly volatile and subject to substantial revisions—which means, I’ll wait to see if the January increase ‘sticks,’ so to speak.”

He said the improvement in trucking jobs, even if the growth remains unchanged, does not yet indicate trucking is on its way to large jumps in employment.

“Certainly volumes are moving in the right direction, but we believe utilization has to rise before the industry needs to boost employment significantly,” Costello said.

Construction employment declined by 75,000 in January, with “nonresidential specialty trade contractors,” accounting for the majority of the decline.

Since December 2007, employment in construction has fallen by 1.9 million jobs, according to BLS, which compiles the monthly unemployment report.

Employment in manufacturing changed little in January, with 11,000 jobs lost, BLS said.

“After experiencing steep job losses earlier in the recession, employment declines [in manufacturing] moderated considerably in the second half of 2009,” BLS said. “In January, job gains in motor vehicles and parts, at 23,000, and plastics and rubber products, at 6,000, offset small job losses elsewhere in the industry.”

BLS this month released a separate report on trucking employment titled, “Recession Leads to Lackluster Employment in the Trucking Industry.”

“A dramatic slowdown in consumer demand has been crippling the nation’s trucking firms, making job losses during the current recession worse than at any time since. . . . 1990,” BLS said in the report.

The agency said that, as in the economic downturn in 2000-01, employment in trucking peaked nearly a year before the official start of the recession, but with far more jobs lost this time than the 91,000 trucking positions cut 10 years ago.

“The most recent employment peak occurred in January 2007, 11 months prior to the official starting point of the current recession,” the report said. “Since then, employment within the industry has declined for 35 months, resulting in the loss of 208,000 jobs, or 14.3% of employment.”

BLS Commissioner Keith Hall pointed out that other January statistics showed weaknesses in the overall economy.

“With revisions released today, job losses since the start of the recession in December 2007 totaled 8.4 million, substantially more than previously reported,” Hall said in remarks prepared for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress on Feb 5.

“The share of those jobless for 27 weeks and over continued to rise,” Hall added.

“Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of long-term unemployed has risen by 5 million,” BLS said in the report.

“In January, the number of persons unemployed due to job loss decreased by 378,000 to 9.3 million,” the report said. “Nearly all of this decline occurred among permanent job losers.”

Transport Topics, 2/15/2010