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TET 2018 - Chapter 4 - Transportation Employment

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Key Takeaways

  • Transportation and transportation-related industries employ over 13.3 million people, accounting for 9.1 percent of workers in the United States. Employment in these industries rose steadily from 2011 to 2015 to 13.6 million, exceeding prerecession levels, then declined to 13.3 million in 2017.
  • Four of the five largest transportation-related occupations involve driving. These four occupations (heavy-duty, light-duty, and delivery truck drivers; school bus drivers; and driver/sales workers) employ 3.6 million workers and account for 35.7 percent of total transportation-related employment.
  • The average compensation for transportation-related occupations, including wages and benefits, was $6.43 dollars per hour less than the average for all occupations ($29.89 versus $36.32) in 2017.

Introduction

Industries in the transportation and warehousing sector and related industries outside the sector employed over 13.3 million people in 2017 in a variety of roles, from driving buses to manufacturing cars to building and maintaining ports and railroads (box 4-1). This chapter explores transportation employment by industry, occupation, mode, and state, and highlights the significant role that transportation employment plays in the Nation’s job profile.


Box 4-1: Sectors, Subsectors, and Industries

Terms like "sector" and "industry" are often used interchangeably. For precision, this chapter uses the terms in the same manner as the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). In NAICS, sectors contain subsectors, subsectors contain industry groups, and industry groups contain industries, as shown in the following example:

Sector: Transportation and warehousing (NAICS 48-49)

Subsector: Truck transportation (NAICS 484)

Industry group: General freight trucking (NAICS 4841)

Industry: General freight trucking, long-distance (NAICS 48412)

Industry detail: General freight trucking, long-distance, less than truckload (NAICS 484122)


Transportation and Transportation-Related Industry Employment in the United States

Figure 4-1 shows the number and percentage of workers in transportation and transportation-related industries from 1990 to 2017. “Transportation industries” refers to industries in the transportation and warehousing sector such as air, rail, water, and truck transportation. “Transportation-related industries” refers to related industries outside the sector such as motor vehicle parts manufacturing.

Figure 4-1: Transportation-Related Labor Force Employment in the United States, 1990 – 2017

Graph of Transportation-Related Labor Force Employment in the United States, 1990– 2017

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NOTE: Shaded areas indicate economic recessions.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Transportation Statistics, table 3-23, available at www.bts.gov as of July 2018.

The percentage of American workers in transportation and transportation-related industries declined from 11.3 percent in 1990 to 9.1 percent in 2017 (figure 4-1). In 1990, transportation and transportation-related industries employed 12.3 million workers. Employment rose to a high of 13.9 million workers in 2000 but declined to 13.2 million by 2003 following the 2001 recession. Employment declined further to a low of 12.1 million in 2010 due to the Great Recession from December 2007 to June 2009. Employment rose steadily from 2011 to 2015, reaching 13.6 million in 2015 and exceeding the prerecession level of 13.5 million in 2007 for the first time, then declined to 13.3 million in 2017. Employment increased for transportation industries from 2015 to 2017, but a decline in employment for transportation-related industries offset this increase.

Transportation Employment by Industry and Occupation

Employment in the Transportation and Warehousing Sector

The transportation and warehousing sector (NAICS 48-49; box 4-2) directly employed 5.2 million workers in the United States in 2017—3.5 percent of the Nation’s labor force. Transportation-related industries outside the sector employed 8.1 million workers. Employment in this sector includes transportation and non-transportation occupations and covers a diverse set of skills.


Box 4-2: Employment in the Transportation and Warehousing Sector

The transportation and warehousing sector (North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS 48-49) includes air transportation, water transportation, truck transportation, transit and ground passenger transportation, pipeline transportation, scenic and sightseeing transportation, support activities for transportation (e.g., air traffic control and marine cargo handling), postal service, couriers and messengers, and warehousing and storage. It does not include government, railroad transportation, or self-employed persons.

Air transportation (NAICS 481) includes industries providing air transportation of passengers and cargo using aircraft, such as airplanes and helicopters. It does not include scenic and sightseeing air transportation, support activities for air transportation, or air courier services.

Water transportation (NAICS 483) includes industries providing water transportation of passengers and cargo using water craft, such as ships, barges, and boats. It does not include scenic and sightseeing water transportation services or support activities for water transportation.

Truck transportation (NAICS 484) includes industries providing over-the-road transportation of cargo using motor vehicles, such as trucks and tractor trailers. It does not include support activities for road transportation, freight transportation arrangement services, the Postal Service (covered in NAICS 491), or courier services.

Transit and ground passenger transportation (NAICS 485) includes industries providing a variety of passenger transportation activities, such as urban transit systems; chartered bus, school bus, and interurban bus transportation; and taxis. It does not include scenic and sightseeing transportation, support activities for road transportation, or arrangement for car pools and vanpools.

Pipeline transportation (NAICS 486) includes industries using transmission pipelines to transport products, such as crude oil, natural gas, refined petroleum products, and slurry. It does not include activities classified as utilities, such as natural gas distribution or water and air distribution and collection.


Figure 4-2 shows employment in the transportation and warehousing sector from 1990 to 2017 by subsector (box 4-2). Each subsector shows different patterns of employment because they face different economic environments and require different mixes of job skills and occupations. Truck transportation, the largest subsector, employed 28.2 percent of the 5.2 million employees in 2017. Truck transportation employment grew by 29.5 percent between 1990 and 2017, from 1.1 to 1.5 million employees, with significant fluctuations related to major economic events, such as September 11, 2001, the Great Recession, and other recessions. Warehousing and storage employment grew by 144.1 percent (from 406,600 in 1990 to 992,700 employees in 2017) to become the second-largest subsector, overtaking air transportation in 2004. The “support activities for transportation” subsector, the third-largest subsector, provides services like air traffic control, marine cargo handling, and motor vehicle towing. It grew 89.5 percent from 364,100 in 1990 to 690,100 employees in 2017.

Figure 4-2: Employment in the Transportation and Warehousing Sector by Subsector, 1990–2017 (thousands)

Graph of Employment in the Transportation and Warehousing Sector by Subsector, 1990–2017

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NOTE: Shaded areas indicate economic recessions.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Transportation Statistics, table 3-23, available at www.bts.gov as of July 2018.

Not all subsectors experienced employment increases from 1990 to 2017. Employment in air transportation increased from 1995 to 2001, but declined after 2001, leading to a 9.8 percent decline in employment between 1990 and 2017 (from 529,200 to 477,500 employees). In addition, rail transportation employment declined by 20.9 percent from 1990 to 2017 (from 271,800 to 215,000 employees) and pipeline transportation employment declined 19.2 percent (from 59,800 to 48,300 employees).

Employment in Selected Transportation-Related Industries

Transportation leads to employment in related industries that provide the goods and services needed to produce transportation. For example, the manufacturing sector produces transportation equipment, and gas stations provide services that support household and business transportation. Additionally, transportation uses a substantial portion of the output of the petroleum industry. In 2017 transportation used an estimated 14.0 million barrels of the 19.9 million barrels of petroleum supplied daily in the United States.

A notable shift in transportation-related employment occurred between 1990 and 2017. From 1990 through 2001, transportation equipment manufacturing employed the most people of all transportation-related industries (figure 4-3). However, as employment in transportation equipment manufacturing experienced a prolonged decline, motor vehicle and parts dealers became the largest industry in 2002. Employment in motor vehicle and parts dealers grew by 34.4 percent from 1990 to 2017 (from 1.5 to 2.0 million employees), while employment in transportation equipment manufacturing declined 23.6 percent (from 2.1 to 1.6 million employees).

Figure 4-3: Employment in Selected Transportation-Related Industries, 1990–2017 (thousands)

Graph of  Employment in Selected Transportation-Related Industries, 1990–2017

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NOTE: Shaded areas indicate economic recessions.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Transportation Statistics, table 3-23, available at www.bts.gov as of July 2018.

Transportation Employment by Occupation

Transportation industry employment data does not include many workers in transportation-related jobs who work for non-transportation firms. Table 4-1 lists transportation-related positions using the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system and highlights the variety of positions. It is necessary to understand employment data at the occupational level to understand the full range of transportation jobs and skills in the economy.

Table 4-1: All Transportation-Related Occupations

View Data

Vehicle operators, pipeline operators, and primary support occupations

  • Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers
  • Commercial pilots
  • Air traffic controllers
  • Airfield operations specialists
  • Ambulance drivers and attendants, except emergency medical technicians
  • Bus drivers, transit and intercity
  • Bus drivers, school
  • Driver/sales workers
  • Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer
  • Truck drivers, light or delivery services
  • Taxi drivers and chauffeurs
  • Locomotive engineers
  • Locomotive firers
  • Rail yard engineers, dinkey operators, and hostlers
  • Railroad brake, signal, and switch operators
  • Railroad conductors and yardmasters
  • Subway and street car operators
  • Sailors and marine oilers
  • Captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels
  • Motorboat operators
  • Ship engineers
  • Bridge and lock tenders
  • Gas compressor and gas pumping station operators
  • Pump operators, except wellhead pumpers

Transportation equipment manufacturing and maintenance occupations

  • Aerospace engineers
  • Marine engineers and naval architects
  • Aerospace engineering and operations technicians
  • Avionics technicians
  • Electrical and electronics installers and repairers, transportation equipment
  • Electronic equipment installers and repairers, motor vehicles
  • Aircraft mechanics and service technicians
  • Automotive body and related repairers
  • Automotive glass installers and repairers
  • Automotive service technicians and mechanics
  • Bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists
  • Rail car repairers
  • Motorboat mechanics
  • Motorcycle mechanics
  • Bicycle repairers
  • Recreational vehicle service technicians
  • Tire repairers and changers
  • Aircraft structure, surfaces, rigging, and systems assemblers
  • Painters, transportation equipment
  • Tire builders
  • Automotive and watercraft service Attendants
  • Cleaners of vehicles and equipment

Secondary support service occupations

  • Insurance appraisers, auto damage
  • Parking enforcement workers
  • Transit and railroad police
  • Crossing guards
  • Travel guides
  • Flight attendants
  • Transportation attendants, except flight attendants and baggage porters
  • Travel agents
  • Reservation and transportation ticket agents and travel clerks
  • Couriers and messengers
  • Dispatchers, except police, fire, and ambulance
  • Postal service mail carriers
  • Shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks
  • Parking lot attendants
  • Traffic technicians
  • Transportation inspectors
  • Refuse and recyclable material collectors
  • Tank car, truck, and ship loaders

Transportation infrastructure construction and maintenance occupations

  • Paving, surfacing, and tamping equipment operators
  • Highway maintenance workers
  • Rail-track laying and maintenance equipment operators
  • Signal and track switch repairers
  • Dredge operators

Other occupations

  • Transportation, storage, and distribution managers
  • Aircraft cargo handling supervisors
  • First-line supervisors/managers of helpers, laborers, and material movers, hand
  • First-line supervisors/managers of transportation and material-moving machine and vehicle operators

NOTE: BTS selected these occupations based on a broad definition of transportation and transportation-related occupations found in Sen, B. and M. Rossetti, "A Complete Count of the U.S. Transportation Workforce," Transportation Research Record 1719: 2000, pp 259–266.

In 2017 an estimated 8.9 million people worked in transportation-related occupations as defined by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) (table 4-1; figure 4-4). The occupation employing the most workers was heavy-duty truck drivers; 1.8 million people worked as heavy-duty truck drivers in 2017 (figure 4-5). Four of the five transportation-related occupations that employ the largest number of workers involve driving and account for 35.7 percent (3.6 million employees) of transportation and material moving workers (figure 4-5):

  • Heavy-duty truck drivers (1.8 million; 19.7 percent)
  • Light-duty and delivery truck drivers (878,000; 9.9 percent)
  • School bus drivers (507,000; 5.7 percent)
  • Driver/sales workers (427,000; 4.8 percent)

Figure 4-4: Relationship Between the Transportation and Warehousing Sector and Transportation-Related Occupations, May 2017

Circle Graph of  Relationship Between the Transportation Circle Graph of Warehousing Sector and Transportation-Related Occupations, May 2017

NOTE: Totals may differ from other totals in chapter because occupational statistics available at the sector level differ from occupational statistics available at the national level. “Transportation-related occupations” refers to occupations selected by BTS as listed in table 4-1.

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, available at http://bls.gov/oes as of August 2018.

Many employees in the transportation and warehousing sector work in occupations that are not transportation occupations, such as accountants and computer programmers. Conversely, many workers in transportation occupations work in other sectors, such as truck drivers working for retail chains. Figure 4-4 illustrates this difference using employment estimates produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for the Occupational Employment Statistics program (box 4-3). While employment in the transportation and warehousing sector and employment in transportation occupations measure the role of transportation in employment, they measure different things and may not move in tandem.


Box 4-3: Occupational Employment Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produces annual occupational employment and wage estimates as part of the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. BLS conducts a semiannual survey of establishments to produce estimates for over 800 industries in the United States. The survey covers all full-time and part-time paid workers in non-farm industries but does not include the self-employed or unpaid workers.

“Transportation occupations” includes the following worker types:

  • Workers directly employed by a transportation company
  • Workers engaged in in-house transportation
  • Workers providing services to the transportation industry
  • Workers providing transportation for non-transportation government agencies such as school districts

BTS selected these occupations based on a broad definition of transportation and transportation-related occupations found in Sen, B. and M. Rossetti, "A Complete Count of the U.S. Transportation Workforce," Transportation Research Record 1719: 2000, pp 259–266.


Part-Time and Full-Time Employment

BTS compiles statistics for a group of transportation and transportation-related occupations in National Transportation Statistics, which includes occupations in the SOC "transportation and material moving" occupation group. The percentage of workers employed part-time in transportation and material moving occupations is slightly lower than the percentage of workers employed part-time in all occupations (figure 4-5). The percentage of part-time workers in transportation and material moving occupations increased from a low of 20.3 percent in 2006 to a high of 27.2 percent in 2009 due to the 2007 to 2009 economic recession but has decreased to 22.8 percent as of 2017.

Figure 4-5: Percentage of Part-Time Workers, 2003–2017

Graph of Percentage of Part-Time Workers, 2003–2017

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NOTE: Shaded areas indicate economic recessions.

SOURCE: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, available at www.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps.html as of July 2018.

Wages and Compensation

Figure 4-6 compares compensation for workers in transportation and material moving occupations and workers in all occupations from 2004 to 2018. Compensation includes wages and benefits. In current dollars, hourly compensation for workers in transportation and material moving occupations increased 51.4 percent from the first quarter of 2004 to the first quarter of 2018 (from $19.74 to $29.89). In comparison, wages for all occupations increased 45.6 percent (from $24.95 to $36.32). Low-wage transportation occupations, like truck drivers and household movers, account for a much larger share of the transportation workforce than high-wage occupations like airline pilots. As a result, the average compensation for transportation-related occupations is $6.43 dollars per hour less than the average for all occupations as of the first quarter of 2018.

Figure 4-6: Average Hourly Compensation (wages and benefits), 2004–2018 (current dollars)

Graph of Average Hourly Compensation (wages and benefits), 2004–2018 (current dollars)

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NOTE: Shaded areas indicate economic recessions.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employer Costs for Employee Compensation, available at www.bls.gov/ncs/ect/#tables as of July 2018.

Annual wages for the largest, lowest-paid, and highest-paid transportation occupations in the United States in 2017 are illustrated in figure 4-7. Because some occupations are more seasonal, analysts use annual wage data instead of the average hourly compensation used in figure 4-6 to compare industry employment categories. Annual wages vary widely, from an average of over $100,000 for airline pilots and air traffic controllers to an average of $22,810 for parking lot attendants. The five lowest-wage transportation-related occupations collectively employ 1.08 million workers, while the five highest-wage occupations employ 183,270 workers.

Figure 4-7: Employment and Wages for Select Transportation Occupations, 2017

Bar Graph of Employment and Wages for Select Transportation Occupations, 2017

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NOTE: Airline pilots typically fly on scheduled air carrier routes to transport passengers and cargo, while commercial pilots fly on non-scheduled air carrier routes. “Commercial pilots” includes charter pilots, air ambulance pilots, and air tour pilots.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, available at www.bl

Wages and Compensation for Airline Occupations

BTS has a Congressional mandate to collect and disseminate data on airlines, including data on finances and employment; these data offer a detailed picture of airline labor. In 2017 an estimated 287,500 employees worked in aircraft and traffic handling—for example, as baggage handlers, flight dispatchers, or reservations clerks. Approximately 84,900 employees worked as in-flight personnel (including pilots), 54,500 worked in maintenance, 12,300 worked in general management, and 227,600 worked in other occupations.

Figure 4-8 uses airline data to show trends in average annual salaries for airline labor, adjusted for inflation. Salaries for in-flight personnel experienced the largest absolute growth, increasing by 62.5 percent from $158,236 in 2005 to $257,121 in 2017. Salaries for employees in “other aviation occupations” (e.g., recordkeeping and statistical personnel, traffic solicitors, and trainees and instructors) experienced the largest relative growth, increasing by 66.0 percent from $21,170 to $35,147 in the same period. Salaries rose for all groups except general management, whose salaries declined 52.3 percent from their peak of $144,784 in 2006 to $69,048 in 2017.

Figure 4-8: Average Annual Salary by Aviation Occupation, 2005–2017 (thousands of 2017 dollars)

Graph of Average Annual Salary by Aviation Occupation, 2005–2017 (thousands of 2017 dollars)

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NOTE: Shaded area indicates economic recession.

SOURCES: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Office of Airline Information, Form 42 Schedule P-6 and P-10, available at transtats.bts.gov as of July 2018.

Transportation Employment by State

Transportation Establishments, Employees, and Payroll

Transportation establishments and firms employ people throughout the United States. Table 4-2 shows information about transportation establishments, employees, and total employee payroll for each state in 2016; figure 4-9 shows the relative share of employees in each state. The data do not include freight railroad employees (because recent data are unavailable), self-employed workers, and government employees. State transportation employment corresponds with population levels and the locations of transportation hubs. The four most populated states (California, Texas, Florida, and New York) have the greatest number of establishments and employees (table 4-2). These states have a large employment pool and transportation hubs like railroad interchanges or major ports.

Table 4-2: Transportation Establishments, Employment, and Payroll by State, 2016

Transportation Establishments, Employment, and Payroll by State, 2016 Table

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SOURCE: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, State Transportation Statistics, table 6-1, available at www.bts.gov.

Figure 4-9: State Share of National Transportation Employment, 2016

US Map of  State Share of National Transportation Employment, 2016

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SOURCE: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, State Transportation Statistics, table 6-1, available at www.bts.gov.

Transportation establishments collectively account for 3.7 percent of total employees and 3.6 percent of total payroll in the United States (table 4-2). Transportation establishments employ anywhere from 0.7 percent of total state employees in the District of Columbia to 7.0 percent of employees in Alaska. Accordingly, the share of total state payroll ranges from 0.7 percent in the District of Columbia to 8.9 percent in Alaska. Many transportation establishments fall into the small business classification: the national average establishment size is 20 employees.

Employment by Mode

Figure 4-10 illustrates state transportation employment by mode in 2016. While transportation employment remains related to population, it also relates to the extent of transportation infrastructure and assets in a given state. For example, Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma have the largest number of pipeline establishments, even though Louisiana and Oklahoma were the 25th and 28th most populated states in 2017. In contrast, while Florida is the third most populated state, it has few pipeline establishments and ranks 31st. For freight railroad, Nebraska has the third largest number of employees, despite being the 37th most populated state, because it contains the headquarters of a major railroad corporation.

 

Figure 4-10: State Share of National Transportation Industry Employment by Mode, 2016 (2015 for Freight Railroad)

State Share of National Transportation Industry Employment by Mode, 2016 (2015 for Freight Railroad)

NOTE: Data for states in light gray were withheld to prevent disclosure.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, State Transportation Statistics, tables 6-2 to 6-7, available at www.bts.gov.s.gov/oes as of July 2018.

Updated: Friday, December 14, 2018