April Jobs Report Hints at Growth in Logistics Industry

By Jennifer SmithFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Businesses tied to e-commerce fulfillment resumed hiring at a rapid clip in April, bolstering payrolls to meet changes in the consumer economy.

Parcel carriers and delivery firms, which had scaled back hiring in March, added 3,200 courier and messenger positions last month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its April jobs report. The warehousing and storage sector, which includes sprawling fulfillment centers that process online orders, added 2,500 jobs, accelerating from just 300 job additions in March.

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The growth in sectors tied to online consumers came as hiring at other shipping operators more tied to industrial business was mostly flat. Trucking companies followed two strong months of hiring by cutting payrolls by 100, and railroads slashed 500 jobs despite improved freight shipping volumes last month.

Trucking companies have reported largely tepid earnings in the first quarter of this year, with uneven demand and overcapacity making it tough for carriers to raise the prices they charge shippers.

The hiring at courier and logistics companies was part of a robust national report. Overall nonfarm payrolls rose by 211,000 jobs in April and unemployment declined to 4.4%, the lowest rate since May 2007, potentially priming the economy for strong expansion in the second quarter.

Whether that growth produces more shipping demand is an open question, however. Goods-producing industries contributed only about 10% of the new jobs in April and factory hiring slowed, as U.S. manufacturing activity eased for the second month in a row. The manufacturing sector added 6,000 positions last month, down from 13,000 in March. Producers of durable goods cut 3,000 jobs.

The health-care, finance and other service-sector industries grew more sharply, by contrast.

The transportation and warehouse sector overall added 3,500 jobs last month, with declining payrolls at transit and ground passenger transportation operations undercutting gains at cargo-focused businesses.

Write to Jennifer Smith at jennifer.smith@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 05, 2017 16:31 ET (20:31 GMT)