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Posted at 10:30 a.m. on July 3, 2014
The number of Americans working in transportation reached 4,618,500 in June, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly jobs report released Thursday morning.
That’s a 501,300, or 12 percent, increase from the worst days of the recession. And it exceeds by nearly 58,000 jobs the pre-financial crisis peak in April 2008 of 4,560,600 Americans working in transportation. You can see the rebound in transportation jobs in this chart from BLS:
The BLS transportation category includes people working in air, truck, and rail transportation, as well as some related jobs such as couriers, messengers, and warehousing.
To get a wider picture of the effect of transportation spending, we can look to the BLS group “heavy and civil engineering construction” — building highways, bridges, etc. — which is a subset of the broader construction category.
The BLS data show that last month, 915,700 people worked in heavy and civil engineering construction, up 106,800 from the low point in February 2010.
Those construction jobs have been the focus of the political debate over finding revenue to replenish the Highway Trust Fund and to enable federal money to keep flowing to the states for highway, bridge and other transportation infrastructure projects.
President Barack Obama said in his speech at the Key Bridge in Washington on Tuesday that if Congress doesn’t find a way to refill the fund by the end of the summer “nearly 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year. That would be like Congress threatening to lay off the entire population of Denver or Seattle or Boston.”
The transportation employment data shows just how cyclical the sector is: it hit bottom when the broader economy did in late 2009 and has been growing ever since then.
Contrast that cyclical pattern with a field in which employment has been growing, recession or no recession, every single month for as far back as the BLS data series goes, 1990. In June, 14,725,100 Americans worked in health care.