Truck driver employment edged ever so slightly higher by 0.8% (30,000 drivers) in May driven entirely by gains in private fleet employment, according to Convoy estimates based on data released in this morning’s Employment Situation Report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Convoy estimates that private fleet employment increased by 2%, while employment among company drivers was essentially flat and employment among owner operator drivers fell 1%. Employment among managerial, office and support workers in the trucking industry was also unchanged.
Truckload demand perked up in May as the U.S. economy inched toward reopening, but employment is stickier on the upswing than demand. Private fleets aggressively shed jobs in April, but May saw those losses reverse ever so slightly — in part because federal emergency lending rules were more favorable to businesses outside of trucking. Those same federal lending programs allowed some mid-size and larger truckload carriers and companies to keep drivers on payroll who might have otherwise been let go, so there is some additional capacity in the market even without new hiring. But owner operator drivers, who face more barriers to accessing the federal programs, continued to experience job losses in May. With so many unknowns on the horizon, many trucking companies are reluctant to add headcount too quickly.
The monthly BLS report includes a measure of employment in Truck Transportation businesses, reported as essentially flat. However, because of the definition that BLS uses, that number excludes about half of the individuals who work as truck drivers. It also includes a small number of managerial, office and support workers at trucking companies.
Truck Transportation industry employment (as reported by BLS on May 8th) fell by 6% in April, but detailed survey data released shortly after showed that, within that category, job losses were much larger among company drivers (-11%) than among managerial, office and support workers at trucking companies (-2%). (All numbers are reported as seasonally adjusted changes from the prior month.)
The number of owner operators increased by 7% in April, bucking the industry-wide trend, according to estimates from the Census Bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey (CPS). (The CPS estimates can be more volatile than the numbers reported in the BLS Employment Situation Report.) These gains were driven by White and Hispanic drivers, while Black owner operators experienced a decline in employment. Private fleet employment fell by 10% in April, approaching its lowest levels of the past two decades. Though the percentage decline was on par with the decline among company drivers (also -10%), private fleet employment has increased much less in recent years.
You can read more about Convoy’s approach to estimating truck driver employment here.
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