Unemployment Falls But Trucking Loses Jobs

In another reminder that the economy may be slowing, the U.S. Labor Department reported that truck driving jobs fell by 1,900 in March. This disappointing report indicated that the economy may not be growing with sufficient strength to ensure healthy job growth.

Labor also reported that the unemployment rate dropped a bit, but that was due to more Americans who stopped searching for work.

Labor added more bad news to this report when it stated that the economy only added 120,000 jobs last month. That was down significantly from the 200,000 jobs added each of the previous three months.

The 8.2 percent unemployment reported by the department is the lowest rate since January 2009. The official unemployment rate counts only people who are seeking work. The reason why the rate fell is because fewer people are trying to find jobs.

The 1,900 truck driving jobs lost by the trucking companies is the first negative number since last August. The number of truckers currently employed is still 122,000 less than the peak in the trucking sector, which occurred in the early months of 2007.

The number employed in trucking is 41,400 jobs better than March of last year, and 98,000 more people are employed now in the industry than in March 2010.

In 2008, the industry lost about 150,000 jobs.

The Labor Department claims that 858,000 jobs have been created since December 2011.

This mixed report, though, is seen by some as a disappointment after three months of less than mediocre job growth. The slowdown in jobs created could smother consumer confidence and weaken any stock market rebound.

About 1.4 million people were employed by the sector in 2001, and that number increased in 2007. Since then, that number has rapidly fallen, reflecting decreased demand for goods by consumers and industry.

Trucker employment follows the business cycle. When the demand for goods is low, the need for trucking also falls.

Average hourly earnings are estimated at $21.88 per hour with 40.6 hours worked each week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That compares to a pay rate of $21.75 back in December with 41.4 hours worked each week.

The overall trend shows that the trucking companies are struggling to rebuild their numbers that have been decimated by this recession. Employment in the industry fell by 15 percent between January 2007 and March 2010.

Truck driving jobs have clawed their way back up eight percent over the past two years. On a year-over-year average, the truck payroll rose 3.7 percent in the final six months of 2011. That created 14,300 jobs, according to the bureau.

Employment jumped 4.1 percent in January, but it slowed to 3.7 percent in February and 3.2 percent in March.

Comparative monthly numbers for 2011 were 2.6 percent, 3.9 percent and 4.6 percent.

BLS is able to track a significant number of the for-hire payrolls of the industry. The numbers include truck drivers, office workers, mechanics and managers.

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