The Journal of Commerce For-Hire Trucking Employment Index dropped slightly in June, falling to a 95.4 reading as the trucking companies surveyed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shed jobs and hiring slowed following a spring surge in April.
Revised BLS data show trucking employment dropped in May as well, pushing the JOC index down from a high of 95.8 in April to a revised 95.6 in May. The May-June decline is the first consecutive monthly drop in the index since March 2010.
However, the index remains at one of its highest points since August 2008, and is only 5 percentage points below its January 2007 peak of 100.4, indicating trucking employment is nearing peak pre-recession levels four years into the recovery.
The index, which uses seasonally adjusted average trucking employment figures for the fourth quarter of 2006 as its base, has risen three times and dropped three times in 2013. That reflects difficulty in hiring, especially drivers, and a weak economy.
The American Trucking Associations For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index rose 2.3 percent in May after falling 0.2 percent in April. Year-over-year, the ATA tonnage index jumped 6.7 percent in May, it’s biggest leap since December 2011, the ATA said.
That jump in tonnage didn’t lead to an increase in trucking’s work force last month, which indicates existing capacity was able to absorb the freight but suggests finding and keeping the truck drivers needed to haul that freight is not getting easier.
The more than 100,000 trucking companies tracked by the BLS added 11,300 workers to their payrolls in the first four months of 2013, but those companies lost 5,900 employees over the last two months, according to the federal agency.
The JOC index fell 15.1 points over the course of the recession, hitting a bottom of 85.3 in March 2010. Since then, the index has climbed steadily, rising 3.9, 3.3 and 2.4 points in the three consecutive twelve-month periods ending in March 2013.
The index rose above 95 for the first time since 2008 in January and has stayed above 95 in all but one month this year. It will likely take much stronger GDP growth to move the index up the next step toward peak pre-recession employment levels.