March job numbers were published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on April 7th. The number wasn’t great. U.S. employers added a net of 98k jobs last month. Trucking added 5k, after adding nearly 10k in February. Overall, trucking employment sits at nearly 1.5 million, up about 25k over this time last year.
Trucking Employment: Not as bad as it seems
Despite the relatively weak job growth in March, employment gains are still on a path for solid economic growth this year. Employment was above expectations in January and February, but below expectations in March. The March figure was still solidly positive and the 3-month average was at 178k – right in line with our expectations of job gains of 180k per month. Job numbers can be highly volatile from month to month and smoothing out the numbers helps us discern what the real trend is.
What to expect next
The trucking environment seems relatively stable and businesses are slowly improving their expectations for this year. If we can continue to see solid employment gains (100k+) freight demand should continue to grow. Other economic indicators suggest that both freight demand and manufacturing are expanding. Also, the unemployment rate is at a low historical level, suggesting further pressure on near-term wages. This would suggest that employment will remain at solid levels and the economy will maintain a growth trajectory as we enter the summer months.
Much will depend on business and consumers appetite to spend money. If they start to open their wallets it will allow this expansion to continue at a solid pace.