Employment Report: Surge in hiring at warehouses​​ and for courier drivers

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Throughout the month of August, help wanted signs at warehouses across the country were met with steady responses. According to the report released on Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in regards to August data, there were an additional 20,000 jobs available amongst warehouses, storage, and couriers, as compared to July. More than 20,000 jobs from July on a seasonally adjusted basis.

To frame that better, overall in the month of August, only 235,000 jobs were added to the United States, meaning the addition of 20,000 transportation jobs accounted for 17.1% of the overall job gains.

With job numbers increasing steadily at the end of 2020, after the massive drop in 106,100 jobs in early April of 2020 due to Covid, the August 2021 increase is the largest yet. Since the end of 2020, as the pandemic has become more controlled and life has semi-returned to normal, the warehouse sector has begun to spring back, boasting 90,000 additional jobs at the end of 2020, compared to when the pandemic first began.

Until August of 2021, June 2021 had boasted the largest increase in recorded job gains, coming in at 20,100. According to the August 2021 report, the June record has been beaten by an additional 100 jobs added across warehouses. Over 55,200 jobs total have been recorded across June, July, and August throughout the United States in the transportation sector. This means the number of workers within the warehouse and storage industry is up 48,500 compared to just 9 months ago, at the end of 2020. With the addition of jobs in the warehouse and storage industry, a noticeable gain has also occurred in the couriers and messengers category. In fact, it is the largest gain to take place, with 20,000 new jobs, since a record breaking 42,600 jobs that were added in January of 2019. August 2021 job gains come in at the fifth largest gain in over ten years across the United States. The August figure is the fifth largest in that 10 year-plus history.

Despite the upswing in figures, large courier companies like Uber have reported difficulty in securing drivers. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stated in the last quarterly conference call that the company would “lean in to re-ignite driver and courier growth. We’ve done so aggressively, and we’ve made real progress.” Many companies appear to be preparing for the demand of Christmas early. The director of economic research at Convoy, Aaron Terrazas, was quoted “This likely reflected earlier than normal hiring for what is anticipated to be a busy online holiday shopping season,” he said of the large gain.

Across the trucking category, gained approximately 5,400 jobs to bring the overall 2021 total to 1,498,500. Unfortunately, this figure is still less than the 1.5 million jobs that were reported pre-pandemic in March 2020. As many within the financial sector have chosen to compare 2021 to 2019, versus the rarity that was 2020, the employment rate in August of 2019 across the truck transportation category sat at roughly 1,527,600 jobs, still meaning August of 2021 is not quite back to pre-pandemic numbers.

“Trucking firms added 5,400 workers to their payrolls in August (seasonally adjusted) according to the BLS data, building upon July’s 4,800 job gain and June’s 6,300 job gains after stagnating head counts for much of the first half of 2021,” Terrazas wrote. According to Terrazas, there is a negative aspect and it probably isn’t enough “For an industry that has faced record demand over the past year and that has been aggressively increasing wages, head counts have been stubbornly slow to rebound in the BLS data despite recent signs of progress,” he wrote.

In other data points from the monthly employment report:

It appears that capacity is being met by truckers putting in more hours, according to recent reports. The average weekly hours worked rose to 43.2 hours in July across the board for non supervisory and production employees. In the history of the last ten years, that’s the highest number recorded. Truck transportation costs continue to shoot through the roof, climbing steadily with no end in sight. For some sectors, like the producer sector, July went up 30 basis points to 165.3, compared to the 145 it was just one year ago.