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Last-mile jobs continue to prop up transportation employment figures

Jan. 8, 2021
U.S. nonfarm employment figures fell by 140,000 in December as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to depress the leisure and hospitality industry, while local delivery job opportunities grow.

Transportation employment rose in the last month of 2020 to offset nonfarm payroll that declined by 140,000, according to the December jobs report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Jan. 8.

E-commerce continues to buoy the transportation and warehousing jobs market, which rose by 47,000 in December — as the largest gains came in the couriers and messengers sector, which added 37,000 new jobs last month. That sector includes the growing last-mile local delivery industry that has boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Total nonfarm payroll saw declines in leisure and hospitality, private education, and government; while there were increases in professional and business services, retail trade, construction, and transportation and warehousing. The nonfarm employment is down by 9.8 million (6.5%) compared to the last pre-pandemic numbers of February 2020. 

During that same time, couriers and messengers have increased employment by 222,000, according to BLS. Despite those drastic gains over the past 10 months, the overall transportation and warehousing employment sector is down 89,000 since COVID-19 changed the U.S. employment landscape. 

Those local delivery jobs, which continue to grow during the pandemic, are competing with more traditional commercial driving jobs. “There's some thinking that there's a diversion of labor to that,”  Avery Vise, the FTR Transportation Intelligence vice president of trucking, said in the fall. “The wages tend not to be as much, but you get more home time, obviously, and also you have a lot less federal regulation to worry about.”

Diving deeper into the transportation and warehousing sector’s December numbers, along with last-mile-type jobs, employment also grew in warehousing and storage (+8,000) and truck transportation (+7,000), while transit and ground passenger transportation lost 9,000 jobs. 

“We've got manufacturing on one side, and then we've got the consumer on the other side, and we're seeing that those non-store retailers are seeing a big jump, and that's actually then leading into more job growth on local delivery jobs,” FTR Chairman and CEO Eric Starks said in December. 

The leisure and hospitality sector lost 498,000 jobs, the most of any industry. Three out of every four jobs lost in the industry were food services and drinking establishments. Employment also fell in the amusements, gambling, and recreation industry (-92,000) and in the accommodation industry (-24,000). Since February, employment in leisure and hospitality is down by 3.9 million, or 23.2%.

These industries may receive a shot in the arm as more of the nation gets vaccinated and events start to return, which is poised to occur in April.

About the Author

Josh Fisher | Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Josh Fisher has been with FleetOwner since 2017, covering everything from modern fleet management to operational efficiency, artificial intelligence, autonomous trucking, regulations, and emerging transportation technology. He is based in Maryland. 

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