Freight-related transportation jobs fell moderately in September, the Labor Department reported, but falling employment levels in key customer groups could signal more trouble ahead for the shipping sector.
Trucking shed about 4,400 jobs from August, leaving total employment at 1.3 million, Labor said. The warehouse and storage industry shed 2,700 to end the month with 637,200.
These are the actual industry employment numbers, not adjusted for seasonal variations based on normal behavior in past years. Many economists say the economic shocks of 2008 and 2009 have distorted the seasonal formulas. But these are also preliminary figures; Labor usually revises them for two months after the initial reports.
Across all industries, the U.S. jobless rate rose to 9.8 percent of the labor force last month from 9.7 percent in August. Labor said employment fell in manufacturing, construction and the retail sector; those are all important shipper groups for freight carriers, and fewer jobs among those customers could reflect weakness in demand for their products.
Employment in rail transportation -- which includes the major freight railroads, short lines and commuter trains using heavy-gauge track systems that are often shared with freight trains – was unchanged from August at 212,400 after falling mildly from July.
A separate report by Class I carriers to the Surface Transportation Board earlier showed the major cargo lines trimming employment from mid-July through mid-August. (http://www.joc.com/node/413492)
One transport area enjoyed a surge in job growth for September. Labor said jobs at transit and ground passenger systems, which include buses and subway trains, rose to 411,000 last month from 342,000 in August. That could partly reflect a large increase in federal aid for mass transit, much of it from this year’s stimulus law.
In other areas that include freight and passenger transportation, air industry jobs fell by 1,900 last month to 465,100, and water commerce transport jobs shrank by 900 to 58,000.
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