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Motor carriers get back to hiring in October


The hiring hunt for truckers resumed in full in October after a slow September.

Just one month after truck transportation jobs witnessed their most substantial decline in more than 10 years, business owners in October were back to hiring commercial truck drivers at a robust clip, suggesting that the dip was either a blip or an indication that the trucking industry's state resembles the U.S. economy's: mixed.

In October, motor carriers nationwide added 13,200 jobs, Modern Shipper reported from Bureau of Labor Statistics data. That's the third-largest monthly increase for the industry in a decade and more than compensates for the recruitment slump carriers encountered in September. Indeed, while the BLS initially indicated motor carriers, logistics firms and the like shed 11,400 truck transportation jobs in September, it was actually only around 4,300 that were lost after the Bureau revised the number upward by roughly 7,100.

Given that the previous jobs report was only the third time since 2020 that trucking employment in the U.S. has diminished — not to mention the U.S. economy is in the early throes of a recession, having experienced two consecutive quarters of negative growth — some viewed the September decline as harbinger of what's to come for the industry heading into 2023. Furthering this is belief is rising truckload capacity, which happens when demand for trucking services slows.

But the rather dramatic bounce back throws a wrench into that theory. Furthermore, holiday sales activity is expected to be strong. The National Retail Federation predicts sales in the holiday period of 2022 — which comprises the last two month of the year — will reach $960.4 billion. Should the NRF's projection be proven accurate, it would be an increase of between 6% and 8% compared to the same period of 2021. Although strong, even 8% growth would fall short of the year-over-year growth witnessed last year compared to 2020 (13%). 

Economy and trucking industry bear similarities
The incongruous nature of the work situation for truckers is akin to what it's been like for the U.S. economy. Despite numerous rounds of layoffs in the tech, manufacturing dot-com and financial sectors, companies of all sizes appear to be doing more hiring than firing. Indeed, while the unemployment rate nudged higher in October (3.7%), the economy added 261,000 jobs, BLS data showed. That figure exceeded most economists' expectations for the month.

And even though a stubbornly high Producers Price Index suggests business owners are spending more on theid in terms of supplies and overhead, they're still paying their employees more than they did a year ago. The typical worker in October earned an hourly wage of $32.58, according to the BLS. That's a 5% increase from 12 months ago. Motor carriers also kept their foot on the gas pedal in terms of pay. The average job in truck transportation pays $29.70 per hour, Modern Shipper reported. That's up from an hourly wage of $29.50 in the previous report.

Wage growth has been virtually unanimous among motor carriers over the past couple of years. In 2021, for example, 90% of truckload fleets increased their salary offerings, according to the American Trucking Associations' 2022 Driver Compensation Study. More than 95% offered referral bonuses for new drivers. 

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