Employment in for-hire trucking rose only two tenths of a percent in September from August, as the U.S. unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.1 percent.
Even with that slight increase, the seasonally adjusted trucking employment figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics hit their highest point since March 2009.
Trucking employment in September was 4 percent higher than in March 2010, the lowest point in the past decade, according to the Labor Department agency’s data. Trucking’s payroll headcount is 11.6 percent lower than at its apex in January 2007.
The addition of 2,600 workers to payrolls at the for-hire trucking companies tracked by the BLS reversed a decline in trucking employment in August from July.
But those numbers have been locked in a 5,000-job range since June, and have climbed only 2.3 percent since January and 2.9 percentfrom a year ago.
The raw, unadjusted job numbers increased less in September, only 0.1 percent from August and 2.8 percent from a year ago to just over 1.3 million.
Trucking employment appears to be growing more slowly than trucking demand. Freight haulers have reported steady volumes and demand in recent months.
The data may reflect difficulty attracting employees, particularly drivers, as well as a general reluctance to expand payroll in an uncertain economic environment.
Tight truck capacity pushed upcarrier revenue and rates in the first half of 2011.
However, a recent survey by Transport Capitol Partners indicates the majority of truckload carriers don’t plan to add equipment over the next year.
Trucking employment grew at a faster year-over-year rate from April through June, from 3 to 3.3 percent, perhaps reflecting stronger second quarter freight volumes.
The BLS tracks payroll at about 110,000 for-hire trucking companies, far short of the total number ofU.S. carriers but still a large sample of for-hire truckers.