Freight transportation and logistics companies cut payrolls in March for the third straight month and goods-producing business also reduced employment.
Rail transportation lost 2,800 jobs after slashing employment by 2,900 in February, showing challenges in the industry as coal and energy shipments continue to drop, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Trucking companies, which logged 600 job cuts in February, cut 2,400 jobs last month.
The continuing jobs pullback among freight carriers comes amid other signals that U.S. freight carriers are retrenching while shipping demand remains relatively tepid. Trucking company Landstar System Inc. said this week that freight loads in its truckload operations grew about a 4% in the first eight weeks of the year compared with the same period a year earlier. But prices for shippers declined
The transportation jobs picture comes as theoverall employment report showed the U.S. added a solid 215,000 jobs in March and the labor participation rate increased. The manufacturing sector shed 29,000 jobs, however, and overall goods-producing employment fell by 4,000 jobs. The contrast underscores a shift in the U.S. labor force toward domestically-focused service jobs, including retail, construction and health care.
The warehousing industry, for example, added 1,100 jobs in March, and couriers and messengers also added 1,000 jobs, reflecting growing demand for logistics services that support the growth of e-commerce.
The Alliance for American Manufacturing industry group pointed to China as the main reason for job cuts. “China’s massive industrial overcapacity, currency manipulation, and our growing China trade deficit continue to tip the scales, and it’s laid-off U.S. factory workers who pay the price,” the group’s president, Scott Paul, said in a statement.
Freight hauling companies are hoping that a strong report on U.S. factory activity released Friday will lead to more growth in coming months. A measure of manufacturing activity by the Institute for Supply Management jumped 2.3 percentage points to 51.8% in March, showing growth for the first time since last summer. The ISM’s index for new orders also soared 6.9 percentage points.