The seven largest railroads operating in the United States boosted their overall train and engine crews from mid-July to mid-August, but job cuts elsewhere took employment down from a month earlier.
The U.S. operations of Class I U.S. and Canadian lines reported 150,064 workers across all categories at mid-August, down from 150,400 in the middle of July, according to a report from the Surface Transportation Board based on company filings.
However, their combined workforce of train engineers and conductors rose to 57,167 in the latest monthly report, from 56,814 a month earlier. Most other job categories, from managers to track maintenance workers, declined in August.
The July report had shown Class I employment rising for the first time during the 2009 recession year. However, some rail industry officials say the increase probably was tied more to tighter work-hour rules that took effect in July, under last year’s Rail Safety Improvement Act.
The increases have also come as rail traffic has strengthened moderately but persistently since early summer. Railroads have reactivated some of their parked locomotives and railcars, but since they are also getting more productivity out of the workforce it is not yet clear how many of the added train crew jobs are due to firming cargo volume and how many result from the work-hour changes.
The STB requires Class I carriers to report a mid-month snapshot of jobs after the first payroll period of the month. They then have until month’s end to mail in those reports, which the STB compiles into a single report and releases soon afterward.
An August decline in rail jobs was also evident in the full-month report released earlier by the Department of Labor. But Labor’s category covers all Class I, short line and passenger as well as freight rail operations that use heavy track systems, not counting inner-city subways or tourist railroads.
Contact John D. Boyd at firstname.lastname@example.org.