Whatever the extent of any “driver shortage,” you wouldn’t think there is one by checking a National Public Radio report by Quoctrung Bui that traces the most common jobs in every state since 1978.
The data not only highlights trends about trucking jobs, but also reveals aspects of the broader economy over almost four decades.
In 1978, the U.S. Census Bureau category that includes truck drivers was the most common job category in nine states. An interactive U.S. map shows changes every two years through 2014.
The biggest two-year shift was from 1988 to 1990, when truck driver usurped secretary in many Southwest and South-Central states. Truck driver jobs have stayed dominant since then.
Among the two-year intervals measured in the graphic, that category peaked in 2000 as the most common job in 40 states. By 2014, the state count fell to 29.
The story, produced for NPR’s Planet Money program, offers some analysis on the prevalence of driving jobs:
- Because it’s a domestic service job and can’t yet be automated, “Driving a truck has been immune to two of the biggest trends affecting U.S. jobs: globalization and automation.”
- “Jobs that are needed everywhere — like truck drivers and schoolteachers” – are more common now with the decline of regional specialization.
- The Census category (“truck, delivery and tractor drivers”) is much broader than most other job categories. (The story notes it did not account for the categories of “managers not elsewhere classified” and “salespersons not elsewhere classified” because they are “vague to the point of meaninglessness.”)
- Job categories that were once more prominent, such as secretary, factory worker and farmer, have decreased due to advances in technology and productivity.