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Employee headcount falls in August at US Class I rail operations

Total drops 2.83% year-over-year

Employee headcount at the U.S. Class I railroads fell both year-over-year and sequentially in August, amid a rise in U.S. carload traffic but a decline in intermodal volumes.

Employees working at the U.S. operations of the Class I railroads in August totaled 114,431, a 2.83% decline from August 2020 and a 1.07% drop from July 2021, according to data submitted to the Surface Transportation Board.

The steepest declines year-over-year came from the maintenance of equipment and stores category and the transportation (other than train and engine) category amid the railroads’ continued adoption of precision scheduled railroading, an operating model that seeks to streamline operations.

This SONAR chart shows the decline in the number of rail transportation workers on payroll (EMPN.RAIL) over the past year, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (FreightWaves SONAR)   To learn more about FreightWaves SONAR, click here.

In mid-August, the number of employees in the maintenance of equipment and stores category totaled 17,205, a 10.23% decline from August 2020 and a 1.79% drop from July 2021.

The number of employees in the transportation (other than train and engine) category totaled 4,659 in August, an 8.09% drop year-over-year and a 1.52% decrease from July 2021.

The only category that grew year-over-year was transportation (train and engine), which tends to be sensitive to market demand and network capacity needs. The total, 47,109 employees, was 1.85% higher than August 2020 but 0.82% lower than July 2021.

As employee headcount, U.S. rail volumes were flat in August, with a 4.1% gain in carloads offset by a 3.3% decline in intermodal traffic, according to the Association of American Railroads

August rail volumes totaled 2.02 million carloads and intermodal units and were flat with August 2020.

On a sequential basis, U.S. rail volumes were up 2.5% between July and August, with carloads rising 3.3% to 934,762 and intermodal traffic increasing by 1.8% to nearly 1.09 million containers and trailers.

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Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.