The job losses suffered by the truck transportation sector in February have almost no precedent in the last 10 years, except for the massive drop in April 2020 and a similar drop almost 10 years ago.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data reported Friday showed the truck transportation sector saw a decline of 8,500 jobs in February, coming in at 1,599,900 on a seasonally adjusted basis.
In the downloadable data provided by BLS in its report, a review of every month going back to January 2013 turns up no other month in that period, except for the April 2020 bloodbath, in which the number of jobs in truck transportation jobs fell by that much. Outside of April 2020, the only bigger one-month decline was 9,000 jobs in March 2013.
The decline in April 2020 was 84,500 jobs.
Before the February report, there had only been three months since the pandemic began in which truck transportation jobs declined, with the largest one-month drop coming in March of last year, when jobs declined 3,100 jobs. Other than those three months, it had all been gains.
The decline from January also was accompanied by a revision in the original figure reported last month for January. The revised January total of 1,608,400 jobs is a downward adjustment of 6,300 jobs from what BLS had initially reported.
The end result is that on a seasonally adjusted basis, the industry was told in early February that in January, it had 1,614,700 jobs in the truck transportation sector. And now, with the adjustment of the January numbers and the drop in February, it is looking at a job total that is 14,800 less than that.
Non-seasonally adjusted truck transportation jobs also saw a downward move, dropping 10,600 jobs to 1,575,800 jobs in February..
David Spencer, the vice president of market intelligence at Arrive Logistics, said the drop in jobs is coming alongside signals that trucking companies are getting from the market.
The jobs decline “is driven by the results carriers are seeing in this year’s current RFP season,” Spencer said in an email to FreightWaves. “With shippers lowering volume expectations, carriers will be providing smaller commitments, which means the same way that spot rates are starting to bottom out, we’re going to see jobs continue to decrease over the next few months.”
He said there were other indicators of the weakness in the market that are ongoing or should be watched, such as used equipment prices declining and a slide in contract rates.
“While many carriers were holding out hoping for a recovery, I believe now we are seeing carriers adjusting to the new conditions with more confidence,” Spencer said.
Some other data points in this month’s BLS report:
- Warehouse jobs are also on the decline. On a seasonally adjusted basis, jobs in that sector in February stood at 1,929,400 jobs, down from 1,934,900 jobs a month earlier. There are two ways of looking at the warehouse data: Jobs are down 30,900 from the recent high level of June 2022, but they are up about 335,000 jobs from two years ago.
- Rail jobs looked like they were on the upswing, and maybe they are with just a one-month blip. But pressure to increase the ranks of workers has only grown with the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment in early February. Yet jobs dropped 200 in the rail sector to 148,900. They still are above the 145,800 recorded in February 2022, and the recent increases have seen the jobs total break out of a range that appeared stuck between about 145,000 and 147,000 for several years.