By the middle of February, employment levels at the U.S. operations of the seven Class I railroads had been set back by four years.
In reports the carriers file with the Surface Transportation Board, the railroads said that as of mid-month they employed 156,997 workers, down 2,500 or 1.58 percent from a month earlier. That was also 6,100 workers fewer than at the same point in 2008, for a 3.74 percent year-over-year drop.
An STB jobs index for the biggest railroads fell to 25.7 with the February reading; it had not been that low since January 2005.
More information about job cuts will come with the Class I earnings reports, which begin this week and should update carrier headcounts for another six weeks through the end of March.
Those statements will probably show further layoffs, as railroad executives have said they would keep cutting equipment capacity and workers to align their networks with falling demand so they can remain profitable.
The STB report said carriers by mid-February had cut another 2.93 percent of their train crew workforce, the single largest employee group, over the past month. However, that worker group, which includes train engineers and conductors, lost nearly 6,500 workers over the past year or 9.57 percent of its mid-February 2008 level.
CSX Transportation made the biggest job cuts in the February report, shedding 1,187 workers – mainly from train crews but also from maintenance staff for equipment and tracks – to end with 28, 404.
Union Pacific Railroad, by far the largest rail employer, cut 441 jobs to end the reporting period with 49,864.
Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com.