The seven largest freight railroads trimmed 642 positions from their combined U.S. workforce in December, for the first reduction since August, but ended 2010 with 5.23 percent more employees than at the end of 2009.
In reports they filed with the Surface Transportation Board, the Class I carriers said they had 154,400 employees as of the first payroll period in December, down from 155,042 as of mid-November. In December 2009, those railroads counted 146,725 on their payrolls, so they added 7,675 in the past year.
The job number may show rail employment returning to more traditional seasonal shifts as the economy recovers from the 2008-09 recession. December is often a time when rail jobs slide with lower traffic after autumn peak levels. The U.S. Labor Department earlier said rail jobs increased last month after seasonal adjustments.
The Association of American Railroads this week said freight rail lines "are well positioned for job growth" as traffic rebounds. Besides hiring to meet volume needs, it said railroads will see "a significant wave of retirements over the next five years" as an estimated 67,000 employees will be eligible for retirement.
The Class I carriers told the STB their biggest workforce gains of 2010 came in the largest job category of train and engine crews, which increased 9.21 percent to 62,067. Track maintenance employment grew 6.03 percent from December 2009 to 34,614.
Norfolk Southern Railway said it added some workers from mid-November to mid-December, while U.S. units of Kansas City Southern and Canadian National Railway held almost even with a month earlier. Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation and U.S. lines of Canadian Pacific Railway all mildly reduced payrolls for the latest month.
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