For-hire trucking employment hit an all-time high in January, beginning 2016 with 17,700 (1.2%) more jobs than this time last year.
The gain of 1,500 jobs for the month is a little deceiving: The December total was revised upward by 4,000 jobs and November by 5,400, meaning the 2015 fourth quarter finished strong after an autumn swoon.
This comes as the U.S. economy posted so-so employment gains, up 151,000, according to the latest jobs report from the U.S. Dept. of Labor. The national unemployment rate dipped slightly to 4.9% (the benchmark set by economists for full employment is %5), the lowest rate since February 2008.
The January increase puts the for-hire trucking total at 1.4657 million, 12,300 more jobs than the pre-recession high from January 2007. And there were 232,500 (18.8%) more trucking jobs in January than were reported in March 2010, the low point in the downturn.
Collectively, however, the transportation and warehousing sector lost 20,300 jobs in January, as the seasonal demand for couriers and messengers (down 14,400 jobs) reversed after the holidays.
The gains in broader economy were led by retail trade (+58,000 jobs), food services and drinking places (+47,000), health care (+37,000), and manufacturing (+29,000).
On the losing side, private educational services lost 39,000 jobs in January due to larger than normal seasonal layoffs. Employment in mining (which includes oil and gas extraction) continued to decline in January (-7,000). Since reaching a peak in September 2014, employment in the industry has fallen by 146,000, or 17 percent.