Trucking Operations Reaching Full Employment

As the U.S. heads toward what some economists consider “full employment”, trucking companies tracked by the Labor Department hired an additional 2,600 workers in February, pushing the monthly Trucking Employment Index from the Journal of Commerce up to 99.9. That means the more than 100,000 motor carriers surveyed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for its monthly U.S. employment situation report are only one-tenth of a percentage point shy of their peak pre-recession employment level, last reached in May 2007.

The February Trucking Employment Index rose 0.1 percentage points from January, when the reading was 99.8, according to revised monthly data from the BLS. The index reading for February 2013 was 96.4. That indicates an annualized growth rate in trucking employment last month of 3.5 percent, the same as in January and the highest rate since late 2012. The prospect of near-full employment will keep upward pressure on driver wages and the truck rates shippers pay in 2015.

The for-hire trucking industry has nearly doubled the hiring rate in 2014, expanding payroll by 46,000 jobs, compared with 24,900 in 2013. The for-hire carriers tracked by the Labor Department agency shed 218,500 jobs from March 2007 through March 2010, and added 207,400 jobs from that date through 2014. At the same time, trucking companies say they are short by 30,000 drivers, while running close to full utilization – more than 95 percent. That is a sign demand for trucking capacity currently outstrips supply as the U.S. economy expands at a healthy pace.

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