Logistics Operators Targeting E-Commerce Boosted Hiring in May
Parcel and warehouse companies added more than 20,000 jobs as online sales demand surged
Logistics operators tied to e-commerce added jobs in big numbers in May as homebound consumers stepped up online shopping while the broader economy showed signs of recovery from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic.
Courier and messenger companies that deliver packages to homes and businesses added 12,100 jobs last month, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary employment figures the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday. It was the third straight month of expansion in a sector that has stepped up hiring even as much of the U.S. economy shut down in April and May.
Delivery companies have been scrambling to meet unprecedented demand during widespread lockdowns and parcel networks are straining to handle a flood of online orders for everything from household staples to home office equipment. Delivery giants FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. are adding surcharges to some shipments to offset rising costs driven by holiday-level package volumes.
Warehousing and storage operators added 8,500 jobs in May after slashing 90,500 jobs in April. While Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. have added thousands of online fulfillment jobs since March, overall employment in the sector, which includes industrial and retail distribution, remains below pre-pandemic levels.
Hiring for delivery and warehouse workers could accelerate as more businesses reopen, said Nick Bunker, an economist at job-search site Indeed.com. Help-wanted postings for logistics support jobs in warehousing and supply-chain management are roughly on par with where they were a year ago while postings in all other sectors have contracted, Mr. Bunker said.
Freight operators more focused on industrial business didn’t join the hiring resurgence. Trucking companies cut 1,200 jobs in May after slashing 89,800 positions in April. Rail companies reduced payrolls by 2,100 jobs last month after cutting 4,100 positions in April.
Trucking companies hit hard by plummeting freight volumes this year remain cautious and focused on controlling costs. North American orders for heavy-duty trucks fell 37% in May from a year earlier with fleets ordering 6,600 vehicles, according to preliminary estimates from transport data provider FTR.
“It is difficult for fleets to plan for future equipment needs under these highly abnormal conditions,” Don Ake, FTR’s vice president of commercial vehicles, said in a statement. “Carriers are more worried about what’s happening today, about their manpower needs and short-term issues, than ordering trucks.”
The U.S. economy gained 2.5 million jobs overall in May after shedding 22.1 million positions in March and April, suggesting improvement in the labor market as cities and states have started easing restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. The jobless rate fell to 13.3% from April’s 14.7%, which was the highest level in records going back more than 70 years.