The transportation industry in the United States is a vital component of the country’s economy. In 2021, the trucking industry alone accounted for USD 368.9 billion. Overall demand in the transportation industry was valued at USD 1.29 trillion the same year, amounting to 8.4% of the nation’s GDP.
In January 2023, employment in transportation and warehousing grew by 23,000, in line with the previous 12-month average of 23,000. With a projected growth rate of 6% during 2021–2031 and a corresponding 861,800 new jobs, the industry is now witnessing rapid transformation. From moving goods and people to enabling international trade, transportation plays a critical role in the country’s economic growth and development.
Let’s explore some of the factors contributing to the phenomenal growth of the transportation industry.
Air transportation is one of the fastest growing sub sectors of the transportation industry, and it is expected to continue to grow in 2023. Employment in the US airline industry (both passenger and cargo) increased to 787,328 workers in January 2023 – 3,093 (0.39%) more workers than in December 2022, and 56,944 (7.80%) higher than in January 2019. This expansion has been primarily driven by the unprecedented growth of e-commerce and online shopping.
Rail transportation, too, is expected to witness growth in 2023. Cumulative employment in the sector is projected to grow by 4% from 2021 to 2031. The yearly figure is projected at an average of about 7,500 openings for railroad workers over the decade. Many of these openings are expected to be driven by the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations, or retire and exit the labor force. The growth in intermodal transportation is also leading to a higher demand for rail transportation services.
This sub sector is expected to witness the highest growth rate, with truck utilization rates expected to remain above historical levels in 2023, despite falling from their peak in 2021 due to long-term structural supply constraints. With forecasted utilization rates expected to average at 91.6% in 2023 – still marginally above the 20-year average of 91.2% and higher than the 88% during the last freight recession in 2019 – growth in this sector is expected to remain high as the US economy continues to expand.
Variety of Job Opportunities
Another reason for the projected growth rate in the transportation industry is the variety of job opportunities available. From drivers and mechanics to logistics specialists and managers, the transportation industry offers a diverse range of career options and paths. Some of the most in-demand jobs in the transportation industry currently include:
Truck drivers: According to the BLS, an average of 259,900 heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers openings are projected each year during 2021–2031. These drivers are in high demand due to the rapid growth of e-commerce and online shopping.
Mechanics and technicians:As the number of vehicles on the road increases, the demand for mechanics and technicians is expected to add an average of 73,300 openings during the period 2021–2031.
Logistics specialists: The employment of logisticians is projected to grow 28% during 2021–2031, much faster than the average growth across all occupations. An average of 24,800 openings are projected each year over the decade, driven by the need to replace workers who switch to other occupations or retire and exit the workforce.
The employment outlook for the US transportation industry in 2023 is strong. With new logistic needs emerging due to changes in customer and merchant behaviors, there will be an increased demand for new, more sophisticated transportation and delivery services. This change will set the backdrop for the emergence of new value across the entire logistics value chain over the next few years – which can only be accomplished with the right talent.
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