A revised Journal of Commerce For-Hire Trucking Employment Index remained flat in August compared with July at a reading of 95.6, reflecting summer freight demand and motor carrier difficulty in hiring and keeping truck drivers.
The JOC index is only 1.8 percentage points above its August 2012 reading, reflecting slower growth in trucking employment over the past year than the previous 12 month period, when the index rose 3.6 points from August 2011.
The JOC 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 and their growth rate with pre-recession employment.
The July 2013 index reading, based on preliminary data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was revised downward from 95.9. The index has risen and declined three times this year, as trucking companies struggle to “seat” trucks.
Even so, the index is only 4.8 points beneath its January 2007 peak of 100.4, which shows just how far trucking has come in rebuilding its workforce. The JOC index dropped 15.1 points over the course of the recession, hitting 85.3 in March 2010.
Since then, the index has climbed steadily, rising 3.3, 3.6 and 1.8 points in the three consecutive 12-month periods ending in August 2013. After climbing 2.9 points in 2012, however, the index has remained stuck between 95 and 95.8 in 2013.
Trucking hiring appears to have slowed despite stronger freight demand. The American Trucking Associations For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index has climbed between 3.1 percent and 6.5 percent year-over-year every month in 2013.
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 employment also was flat in August compared with July, though it was up 3 percent from a year ago. Increasingly, experienced construction workers are hard to find, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.