Logistics Hiring Surges on Restocking, E-Commerce Sales

Date: Monday, November 9, 2020
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Logistics payrolls soared in October as inventory restocking after coronavirus lockdowns and strong online sales fueled a hiring surge at distribution and transport companies.

Warehousing, trucking and delivery operators—the logistics sectors most tied to e-commerce—added a combined 46,000 jobs last month, according to seasonally adjusted preliminary employment figures the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday. That marked an acceleration of a growth streak over the past two months that has boosted payrolls in those fields by 77,200.

The jump comes as the U.S. economy added 638,000 jobs in October, the sixth straight month of growth, reflecting an improving labor market despite rising Covid-19 cases. The unemployment rate fell to 6.9%.

Logistics operators have been ramping up hiring ahead of the holiday peak, when growing e-commerce demand amid the coronavirus pandemic threatens to overwhelm distribution networks. Adobe Analytics, which tracks activity on thousands of websites, expects U.S. online holiday sales will total $189 billion, up 33% from last year.

Warehousing and storage companies, which include the sites where workers fulfill online orders, added 28,100 jobs in October, the third straight month of gains. The sector has added 76,500 jobs since October 2019.

Parcel carriers that deliver packages to homes and businesses also notched gains, adding 8,300 jobs last month. Courier and messenger payrolls have grown by 98,800 positions since February as carriers scrambled to meet a wave of delivery demand that has some companies putting off potential new customers until next year.

LaserShip Inc., a regional delivery company in the eastern U.S., put conversations with new customers on hold in July to ensure it had enough capacity to serve existing clients. “I can’t burn what’s in my right hand to pick up something in my left,” said Josh Dinneen, LaserShip’s chief commercial officer. “We’re not starting new business until January.”

Trucking companies, riding a wave of strong freight demand, added 9,600 jobs in October as retailers and manufacturers rush to restock depleted inventories after months of lockdown. It was the second-largest gain in hiring since April, when the pandemic brought much of the U.S. economy to a halt and the sector lost 92,000 jobs. Many trucking companies now are reporting difficulty bringing on new drivers.

“The new driver funnel to the industry is significantly constrained, and that’s been as a result of Covid-19 and the number of new [truck-training] graduates that are available to come into the industry,” Mark Rourke, chief executive of trucker Schneider National Inc., said in an Oct. 29 earnings call.


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