Package-Delivery Companies Hiring Staff, Gear Up Ahead of Holiday Season

By Jennifer SmithFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Package-delivery firms are shoring up their staffing in big numbers as they prepare for a holiday season likely to see another surge in online sales.

Courier and messenger companies added 3,900 jobs in August, the fifth straight monthly increase, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its monthly jobs report released Friday. The parcel sector, which is bulking up as demand to deliver goods to consumers' homes grows, has added 7,000 jobs over the past two months and more than 30,000 since August 2016.

Continue Reading Below

The warehousing and storage sector added 900 jobs in August, as fulfillment centers that process online orders ramped up recruiting in a tight labor market.

The growth in transportation related to e-commerce came as the overall pace of hiring slowed in August, with U.S. employers adding 156,000 jobs from the previous month, below economists' expectations.

The national jobs figures showed strength in industrial sectors that feed shipping demand, however. Manufacturing payrolls grew by 36,000, boosted by gains in the automotive sector, and construction employment rose by 28,000.

The factory hiring came as the Institute for Supply Management's monthly measure of U.S. manufacturing activity reached a six-year high in August.

The gains come as retailers and manufacturers are stocking up inventories, with inbound shipments of auto parts, furniture and back-to-school goods driving robust imports at American ports.

Household spending rose in July, and shoppers are also spending more money online, a trend that should pick up in the fourth quarter. E-commerce accounted for 8.9% of U.S. retail sales in the second quarter, or $111.5 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but the online sales are growing far faster than in-store sales.

Forty-six percent of parents planned to shop online for back-to-school supplies, according to the National Retail Federation. And 82% of respondents to an August survey on the coming holiday season said they expect to buy gifts online, while 77% expect to buy gifts in physical stores, research firm Fung Global Retail & Technology said.

Despite growing demand, trucking companies cut 1,600 jobs in August. BLS said August jobs data weren't affected by Hurricane Harvey, which closed the Port of Houston and disrupted supply chains around the region. The storm has boosted some prices on the spot market for cargo moved by truck, where shippers book freight transportation on a daily basis.

Trucking companies are reporting difficulty recruiting drivers, with some employees leaving for construction or energy jobs. A handful of large publicly traded carriers have increased driver wages.

"In our business, we compete for drivers in the same way we do freight," Christopher Lofgren, chief executive of Schneider National Inc., said during an earnings call in August discussing the trucker's pay increase for drivers.

"If you don't have the trucks filled, one thing you know for sure, their revenue per truck per day is zero," he said.

Write to Jennifer Smith at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 01, 2017 15:04 ET (19:04 GMT)