The U.S. operations of all seven top-tier North American railroads expanded their workforce in April, the first time that has happened since rail employment bottomed in January.
The Class I railroads told the Surface Transportation Board they employed 149,749 workers during the mid-April pay period -- up 1.21 percent from March – which marks three consecutive months that the Class Is have increased their headcounts.
The Class I U.S. workforce total for April was up by 4,140 workers or 2.84 percent from January, which was the low point for the recession.
Railroads continued to lay off workers for half a year after freight traffic began to recover near the middle of 2009. They began recalling workers when freight began to surge early this year, but not all at the same time.
By March all railroads reported gains except Kansas City Southern, which listed no change from February’s job level. However, April will stand as a breakthrough month for the recovery in rail employment if the rising job trend is sustained.
Although the railroads varied in what types of job categories they increased from mid-March to mid-April, as a group they added locomotive crews, track and equipment maintenance workers. They continued to trim their executive and administrative support staffs.
The largest employer, Union Pacific Railroad, told the STB it added nearly 400 workers to its payroll in the latest monthly report. BNSF Railway, the second largest, added almost 600. Norfolk Southern Railway took on another 97 employees, while CSX Transportation added 354.
The U.S. Labor Department will issue its employment report for May on June 4, which will include a jobs figure for the entire rail industry that covers freight Class Is and short lines, plus intercity passenger rail systems. However, only the STB report details information for the major freight lines.
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