The Journal of Commerce For-Hire Trucking Employment Index rose 0.4 percentage points to a new high of 95.9 in July after declining over the previous two months, as trucking companies added more than 6,000 jobs to meet rising freight demand.
The index is only 4.5 percentage points below its January 2007 peak of 100.4, indicating employment at for-hire truckload and less-than-truckload companies is approaching peak pre-recession levels four years into the economic recovery.
The JOC index, based on the monthly BLS data, was increasingly volatile in the first half of 2013, decreasing three times compared with once in the same period 2012. Year-over-year, trucking hiring gains dropped from 4 percent in July 2012 to 2.3 percent last month.
That slower pace of payroll growth indicates motor carriers are having a more difficult time finding workers, even as freight demand grows. The American Trucking Associations For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 6.5 and 5.9 percent year-over-year in May and June.
Overall, for-hire truck tonnage rose 4.7 percent on an annualized basis in the first half of 2013, compared with 2.3 percent in the same period of 2012, according to the ATA. Stronger construction and durable goods demand contributed to the increase.
Construction — a key competing job market for trucking — increased employment 3 percent last month from July 2012, and total hours worked in construction rose 3.5 percent, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
The JOC trucking employment 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 3.5, 3.6 and 2.2 points in the three consecutive 12-month periods ending in July 2013.
The index uses a seasonally adjusted average trucking employment figure for the fourth quarter of 2006 as its base, providing a means to compare current employment levels with pre-recession employment.