Marking a sharp change in the pattern that dominated the rail industry during the recession, nearly every Class I railroad operating in the United States increased employment by the time they made their first payroll for March.
In reports filed with the Surface Transportation Board, six of the seven Class I railroads said they had more workers at mid-March than a month earlier. In all, they listed 147,966 workers in the first pay period of the month, up 1,658 from mid-February.
Only Kansas City Southern, one of the smallest in the top-tier group, reported no change in its workforce of 2,690.
A month earlier, the group as a whole had a milder increase of 699 workers from mid-January. But that February gain was driven by new hiring from only two carriers – BNSF Railway in the West and CSX Transportation in the East -- while the others continued making cuts.
This time, BNSF and CSX again added workers amid a growing freight market, and were joined by Union Pacific Railroad, Norfolk Southern Railway, and the U.S. operations of Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway.
The report to U.S. regulators does not count employment in Canada for CN and CP, where they have most of their operations. But it does count CN’s Illinois Central unit that runs down the Mississippi River corridor and its short line around Chicago, and CP’s Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern plus some others.
Once again in March, BNSF led the way by adding 894 workers for a total of 36,539, nearly matching the 900 it added in February. UP, the largest employer in the group, added 364 to report 45,865 employees to the STB.
CSX added 270 and had 27,137 at the time of this report, while eastern-U.S. rival NS put on 28 more workers to reach 27,580. CN ended with 5,806, up 49, and CP added 53 to reach 2,349.
The past two months’ reports showed the only back-to-back increases in jobs for the top U.S. carriers since before the recession worsened in 2008. Since mid-March, a combination of rising weekly traffic levels, strong quarterly earnings for the group and more optimistic assessments of the economy’s rebound all suggest the railroads would have added more workers in the weeks after they sent their last reports to the STB.
Nearly all the extra employment in March came among train and engine crews, with more added for track maintenance and in the executive ranks. However, railroads trimmed staff for equipment maintenance, non-train transportation and administrative support.
Contact John D. Boyd at email@example.com.