The number of truck transportation jobs in the latest monthly Bureau of Labor Statistics report was an up-and-down affair.
Total jobs in June in the truck transportation sector declined by 200 jobs from May, according to the BLS, coming in at 1,609,700 jobs on a seasonally adjusted basis. But that decrease came against an adjusted figure for May, which was an increase of 700 jobs from the initial May employment report. April jobs were revised upward by 100 jobs.
The end result is that the latest figure for June is 1,000 jobs more than the revised April figure. But it’s still down from the first month of the year.
David Spencer, the vice president of market intelligence at Arrive Logistics, noted the stability of the market in an email to FreightWaves.
“Summer peak shipping season (typically associated with an increase in seasonal produce shipments) likely contributed to a relatively stable job environment in the truck transportation sector in June,” Spencer said. “Down about 200 jobs, the first decline since February, still leaves total employment in the sector higher than any point in 2022, but down nearly 2,000 jobs from January 2023.”
Spencer was not optimistic going forward. “As demand eases post-Independence Day, the expectation is that trucking conditions should revert to conditions seen earlier in Q2,” he said. “This means a falling rate environment, and an expectation that worsening trucking conditions could lead to further job declines, on a seasonally adjusted basis.”
One of the more startling numbers in Friday’s report was the not seasonally adjusted figure for truck transportation jobs. While economists generally look at seasonally adjusted data, not only for employment but for other economic indicators as well, many of them caution not to ignore the not seasonally adjusted numbers.
Not seasonally adjusted truck transportation jobs rose more than 14,000 jobs between May and June, according to the BLS, climbing to 1,619,900 from 1,605,700 jobs. Relative to an adjusted April figure, jobs are up more than 28,000 jobs in truck transportation on a not seasonally adjusted basis. Given that the seasonally adjusted figure is based to some degree on an adjustment from the not seasonally adjusted figure, the huge reported surge in the not seasonally adjusted figure when considered against a backdrop of the weak trucking market raises the question of whether the seasonally adjusted number might be inflated and subject to revision a month from now.
Matt Muenster, the chief economist at Breakthrough Fuel, dug into the one-month delayed figure for specific employment levels for LTL and truckload. He noted that the data shows year-over-year declines in long-distance LTL trucking jobs, while long-distance truckload employment is higher year over year.
“This would suggest that trucking capacity is largely being maintained, but there is some variability in capacity conditions across different segments,” Muenster said in an email to FreightWaves.
In other highlights of the monthly report:
- Warehousing jobs took another hit. Warehousing and storage came in at 1,904,700 jobs, down from 1,911,600 jobs. With the downward trend in warehousing jobs that has stretched now for several months, the June figure on warehouse jobs is now down 55,600 jobs in the past year.
- Even though employment levels in truck transportation have held steady, the overall trend in hours worked has been down. Average weekly hours worked in the truck transportation sector for all employees peaked at 42.7 in May 2021 and remained above 42 hours for the next five months. The figure was more than 41 hours for six months last year. But the number of hours worked in the truck transportation sector dropped to 39.9 in February and has only slightly rebounded. It was 40.2 in April and dropped again in May to 40.1. That figure lags the general employment report by a month.
- Rail employment, which had been trending higher and last month crossed the 150,000 worker mark for the first time since the pandemic, retreated slightly, down 200 jobs to 150,100 jobs.
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