Steady hiring gains and strengthening freight demand pushed The Journal of Commerce For-Hire Trucking Employment Index up 0.4 percentage points to 95.6 in February. That’s the highest index reading since August 2008.
JOC For-Hire Trucking Employment Index
The monthly JOC index, based on seasonally adjusted payroll data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows employment at for-hire trucking companies is now less than 5 percentage points below its peak in the first half of 2007.
The index dropped by 15 percentage points over the course of the recession to a low of 85.3 in March 2010, and it has climbed 10.3 percentage points since then.
The trucking employment index improved as the U.S. average unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent, according to BLS data, which showed the transportation and warehousing sector gained 3,100 jobs from January through February.
The JOC index climbed faster than originally reported in early 2013, rising a full percentage point from December to January to a reading of 95.2. The BLS data show for-hire trucking added about 5,600 jobs in February and 6,500 in January.
February was the fifth straight month of expansion for the index, which has dropped only once in the past year. Year-over-year, the index was up 3.4 percentage points. The more than 110,000 for-hire motor carriers surveyed by the BLS added about 42,500 jobs from February 2012 through last month, a 3.2 percent increase.
A combination of inventory restocking, strong consumer sentiment and increased manufacturing and construction activity is boosting freight volumes.
The American Trucking Associations seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 2.9 percent from December and 6.5 percent year-over-year in January.
“Job gains and interest rates at historical lows are helping a gradual recovery in the housing market,” said Journal of Commerce Economist Mario Moreno. That recovery is boosting demand for home furnishings, he said. Containerized imports of furniture have risen year-over-year for five straight quarters, Moreno said.