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Transportation Update | May 2021

Posted by The FTR Experts on 5/26/21 2:50 PM


• U.S. economy sees a disappointingly small gain of 266,000 jobs in April. 
• ISM manufacturing index pulls back a bit on production, employment challenges.
• April soars past March’s record in grants of operating authority for new trucking firms.
• Truck spot market sets volume and rate records.
• Intermodal and rail carload volumes were little changed in the latest week.

Exclusive analysis from our SOF INSIGHTS publication - available to premium subscriber clients. Learn about subscribing to our monthly Trucking Update or Shippers Update intelligence services.


After three months of accelerating job gains, the U.S. economy in April added just 266,000 payroll jobs, seasonally adjusted, which is far below expectations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised February and March estimates, although the revisions put March job levels only 78,000 below what BLS reported last month.

Payroll employment remains 8.2 million jobs, or 5.4%, below pre-pandemic levels. The unemployment rate ticked up to 6.1% – a tiny increase but the first since April 2020. However, one factor in the higher rate was a welcome but small increase in the labor participation rate to 61.7% from 61.5% in March.

The number of unemployed people rose for only the second time since April 2020, but increases in the ranks of the unemployed are a typical consequence of higher labor participation. The labor participation rate remains 1.6 points below February 2020, representing nearly 4.2 million Americans still absent from the labor market.

Leisure and hospitality was by far the largest job gainer in April at 331,000 new jobs, but headcount remains about 17% below February 2020. Restaurants and bars represented about 56% of the sector’s increase. Other sectors seeing notable gains were government (led by local government education) and “other services.” 

Other major sectors of the economy either lost jobs or saw very weak growth. Trade, transportation, and utilities lost 81,000 jobs, including more than 49,000 jobs lost at food and beverage stores. Professional and business services lost 79,000 jobs as a result of about 111,000 jobs lost at temporary employment agencies.

Manufacturing shed 18,000 jobs. Most manufacturing industries saw little change in employment, but motor vehicles and parts manufacturing shed 27,000 jobs as the shortage of semiconductors and other components took a toll on production.

We have become accustomed to retail trade being the main weakness in the trade, transportation, and utilities sector, but in April, transportation was mostly to blame.

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Tags: Economy, intermodal, Rail, Drivers, spot market, freight demand, jobs

PDF Download | Transportation Update May 2021





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