We’ve all heard the stories: Massive backlogs at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, complemented by a backup at the Port of New York and New Jersey. Warnings of a Christmas toy shortage. Encouragement to order more and order earlier to keep supply chains running smoothly.
What’s behind the increasing chaos in the supply chain? Obviously, like many supply chain issues, it’s complicated. (If you work in the industry, you probably expected that answer!) Supply chains are, by nature, interconnected. A disruption in one link can easily cascade through the network. Additionally, supply chain disruptions are truly nothing new. Material shortages, natural disasters, labor strikes, economic trends, and more have long been par for the course, as many supply chain managers will tell you.
That said, the disruptions in the marketplace have felt more significant and widespread since early 2020. This is especially true for American consumers, who have weathered shortages of items like toilet paper, shelf-stable food, frozen fruits, flour, and at-home exercise equipment.
Although the recent disruptions have numerous causes, there is one thread running through several links in the supply chain: a widespread labor shortage. In this article, we’ll take a look at the impact of labor on ports, trucking, and warehouses. You’ll get insight into the trends and statistics that may be affecting the links in your supply chain as manufacturers, retailers, carriers, 3PLs—practically everyone in the logistics industry—scramble to keep things moving forward.
We’ll start with a quick look at the overall state of employment in the logistics industry.
Transportation and Warehousing Jobs: By the Numbers
The bottom line is this: Thanks in large part to the pandemic, consumers shifted spending away from services and toward goods.i Online shopping orders went through the roof, as did package volume in the U.S. Although the number of employees in transportation and warehousing has grown as well, it hasn’t kept pace with demand.
The following numbers help paint the picture: