The seven largest freight railroads had more workers in their U.S. operations as of mid-March than any time since February 2009, the Surface Transportation Board reported.
Those Class I carriers reported a combined workforce of 155,842, the STB said, up 1,340 from a month earlier and the strongest for any time since the freight rail economy began to recover from the recession in mid-2009.
The jobs gains follow the 1,198 that the Class Is added to their U.S. lines from mid-January to mid-February. But unlike that month, all seven railroads increased jobs in late February through early March.
Top railroads report their employment levels to the STB as of the first mid-month payroll date, and it takes about a month after that for the agency to compile them into a single report.
The latest increases came as freight traffic was picking up from winter lows, but also as the rail network was trying to dig out from a series of winter storms and regain fluidity across the country. The railroads added nearly 700 track maintenance workers and nearly 400 for the much larger category of train crew members.
BNSF Railway accounted for most of the mid-March job gains, adding 759 workers from that point in February. CSX Transportation was next with 228 net new workers.