December 19, 2014

Rails bringing T&E workers back to jobs

A ray of sunshine for working families is emerging from otherwise bleak economic news: Many Americans are going back to work.

The Labor Department reports that 151,000 jobs were added during October, following four successive months of job losses.

On the nation’s railroads, thousands of train and engine (T&E) workers are being recalled to work.

Union Pacific Chairman Jim Young told Wall Street analysts in late October that UP had put some 1,100 furloughed workers back to work during the third quarter 2010, and that all furloughed UP workers would be back on the job in coming months. Young said he expects UP to be hiring additional employees in 2011.

At Norfolk Southern, according to the Journal of Commerce, all furloughed T&E workers have returned to their jobs, and NS will be hiring an addtional 1,550 T&E workers this year — and may hire an additional 1,800 in 2011, albeit many replacing those who will retire.

Although train and engine jobs on the nation’s Class I railroads had been cut by some 20 percent between June 2007 and June 2009, there has been a steady increase in T&E jobs in 2010, especially over the past few months, according to U.S. Surface Transportation Board data as reported to the agency by the railroads.

In June 2007, the nation’s Class I railroads employed 69,298 workers in train and engine jobs.

By June 2009, the number of T&E jobs on Class I railroads had declined to 55,434 — a decline of some 20 percent in T&E jobs from the June 2007 level.

Beginning this past June, however, the number of T&E jobs began rising significantly, climbing back to 61,444 in September, or only about 11 percent below the June 2007 level of T&E employment, according to STB data.

The STB has not yet reported October T&E employment, which is expected to show another rise.

With rail traffic strong and expected to remain so, there is confidence that the number of T&E jobs will continue rising on all railroads during the fourth quarter.

Another strong ray of sunshine is found in an observation by the British-based Economist magazine in its Oct. 30 issue:

“America has far more going for it than its current mood suggests. It is still the most innovative economy on earth, the place where the world’s greatest universities meet the world’s deepest pockets. Its demography is favorable, with a high birth rate and limitless space into which to expand.

“It has a flexible and hard-working labor force. Its ultra-low bond yields are a sign that the world’s investors still think it is a good long-term bet. The most enterprising individuals on earth still clamor to come to America.”