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Economic Update: Transportation and Warehousing Job Gains

The pandemic-induced recession is the greatest shock to the economy since the Great Depression. National unemployment rates did not quite approach numbers observed during the Depression, but the sudden rise in job losses is unparallel. Regionally, similar patterns were observed.

Employment losses for the five-county region were just above 30,000, far exceeding losses in the Great Recession. Employment, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, does not consider county residence. For example, a resident of Floyd County may be working in Jefferson County, KY, and that person will show up as employed and as a member of the Floyd County labor force. When we refer to the 30,000 employment losses across the five-county region in Southern Indiana, some of the associated job losses occurred in Kentucky. Given that more than 35,000 Hoosiers commute to Kentucky daily for work, that is a reasonable conclusion.

Up until now, the only payroll data available for Southern Indiana was for the first quarter of 2020, just before the shutdown of the economy. The first quarter showed slightly positive job gains, but the largest increase occurred in transportation and warehousing, adding 900 jobs. Removing the job gains from public administration, which were linked to the Census, transportation and warehousing jobs easily exceeded all industries combined.

We now have county payrolls data from the 2nd quarter, and the results were expected. Keep in mind that April will go down as the bottom of the current recession. Job losses were severe and abrupt. During the Great Recession, it took a year for unemployment claims to peak. In 2020 recession, unemployment claims peaked in two weeks. The five-county Southern Indiana region saw total job losses of approximately 11,500, about double the losses that occurred during the Great Recession. Like the first quarter, transportation and warehousing saw significant gains, adding 1,776 jobs. The three industries with the highest job losses: manufacturing, accommodation and food services, and health care and social services. Third quarter data will be out around February 2021, and we will see a complete reversal of the job losses that occurred in the second quarter.

More recently, we see that job postings in the Transportation and Material Moving Occupation Family far exceed other occupation families. In the past 30 days, job postings in the transportation and material moving family were almost at 700, and healthcare practitioners were almost 450. Heavy and Tractor Trailer Truck Driver was the dominant position in the transportation family, and registered nurse for the healthcare family of occupations.

The 2020 recession accelerated some trends that have been in development for several years. One of the more noticeable perhaps has been in online shopping. While this trend could both favorably and adversely impact some local retailers, the region stands to benefit primarily through the agglomeration of transportation and warehousing companies. This has been evident in 2020 with transportation and warehousing being the big job generator for the entire region.

Note: Job postings data source: Burning Glass; County payrolls data source: STATS Indiana Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages; County employment data source: FactSet

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