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U.S. Railroad Employment & Productivity Statistics

Railroad industry employment has declined significantly in the United States since World War II. Factors contributing to this decline include increased productivity, industry consolidation, new technologies, and the significant reduction in passenger and local freight service. Between the years of 1951 and 1972, industry employment declined by an average of more than 40,000 jobs per year.

After decades of declining headcounts, railroad employment stabilized in the mid-to-late 1990s. Investor pressure to operate more efficiently, coupled with baby boomer retirement, left some freight railroads unprepared for the surge in demand since 2003. Aside from contraction during the global recession of 2008, railroad employment is expanding to meet growing demand.

The chart below shows annual U.S. railroad industry employment compared to Class I railroad operating revenues. Data is sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Association of American Railroads (AAR), with calculations and analysis by RailServe.com. Note that these labor statistics reflect direct railroad employment and exclude related industries such as railcar manufacturing. Revenue figures in the table have not been adjusted for inflation. When adjusting for inflation, 2014 revenue is approximately 16% lower than 1947 revenue, while 2014 revenue per employee is approximately 5.4 times that of 1947.

For a breakdown of rail jobs by occupation, please see the Railroad Occupations, Wages & Salaries Page. For current job postings and a guide to employment opportunities in the railroad industry, please see the Railroad Jobs & Employment section.

Year Employment Change %   Revenue
(billions)
Revenue Per Employee
1947 1,516,000     $8.7 $5,738
1948 1,477,000 -39,000 -2.5%      
1949 1,331,000 -146,000 -9.9%      
1950 1,354,000 23,000 1.7%      
1951 1,411,000 57,000 4.2%   $10.4 $7,369
1952 1,363,000 -48,000 -3.4%   $10.6 $7,775
1953 1,340,000 -23,000 -1.6%   $10.7 $7,980
1954 1,184,000 -156,000 -11.7%   $9.4 $7,939
1955 1,173,000 -11,000 -0.9%   $10.1 $8,605
1956 1,160,000 -13,000 -1.2%   $10.6 $9,138
1957 1,092,000 -68,000 -5.8%   $10.5 $9,608
1958 933,000 -159,000 -14.6%   $9.6 $10,288
1959 901,000 -32,000 -3.4%   $9.8 $10,877
1960 862,000 -39,000 -4.3%   $9.5 $11,015
1961 795,000 -67,000 -7.8%   $9.2 $11,564
1962 775,000 -20,000 -2.5%   $9.4 $12,118
1963 751,000 -24,000 -3.1%   $9.6 $12,774
1964 736,000 -15,000 -2.0%   $9.9 $13,441
1965 716,000 -20,000 -2.7%   $10.2 $14,240
1966 706,000 -10,000 -1.4%   $10.7 $15,145
1967 680,000 -26,000 -3.7%   $10.4 $15,290
1968 650,000 -30,000 -4.3%   $10.9 $16,752
1969 632,000 -18,000 -2.8%   $11.5 $18,186
1970 617,000 -15,000 -2.4%   $12.0 $19,441
1971 589,000 -28,000 -4.4%   $12.7 $21,533
1972 566,000 -23,000 -4.0%   $13.4 $23,668
1973 563,000 -3,000 -0.4%   $14.8 $26,251
1974 574,000 11,000 1.9%   $16.9 $29,405
1975 533,000 -41,000 -7.1%   $16.4 $30,719
1976 523,000 -10,000 -1.9%   $18.5 $35,323
1977 530,000 7,000 1.3%   $20.1 $37,886
1978 524,000 -6,000 -1.1%   $21.7 $41,340
1979 541,000 17,000 3.2%   $25.2 $46,524
1980 518,000 -23,000 -4.3%   $28.3 $54,584
1981 482,000 -36,000 -7.0%   $30.9 $64,077
1982 418,000 -64,000 -13.2%   $27.5 $65,724
1983 366,000 -52,000 -12.5%   $26.7 $72,933
1984 366,000 --- ---   $29.5 $80,619
1985 350,000 -16,000 -4.4%   $27.6 $78,912
1986 323,000 -27,000 -7.6%   $26.2 $81,106
1987 300,000 -23,000 -6.9%   $26.6 $88,465
1988 290,000 -10,000 -3.4%   $27.9 $96,094
1989 284,000 -6,000 -1.9%   $28.0 $98,266
1990 271,000 -13,000 -4.6%   $28.4 $104,495
1991 255,000 -16,000 -5.9%   $27.8 $108,750
1992 248,000 -7,000 -2.9%   $28.3 $114,055
1993 242,000 -6,000 -2.4%   $28.8 $118,906
1994 234,000 -8,000 -3.2%   $30.8 $131,311
1995 232,000 -2,000 -0.9%   $32.3 $138,890
1996 225,000 -7,000 -3.1%   $32.7 $145,161
1997 220,000 -5,000 -1.9%   $33.1 $149,836
1998 225,000 5,000 1.9%   $33.2 $147,545
1999 228,000 3,000 1.7%   $33.5 $146,373
2000 232,000 4,000 1.3%   $34.1 $147,099
2001 227,000 -5,000 -2.2%   $34.2 $150,844
2002 218,000 -9,000 -4.0%   $35.3 $162,199
2003 218,000 --- ---   $35.7 $164,157
2004 226,000 8,000 3.8%   $40.5 $179,448
2005 228,000 2,000 1.0%   $46.1 $202,252
2006 228,000 --- ---   $52.2 $229,215
2007 234,000 6,000 2.5%   $54.6 $233,800
2008 231,000 -3,000 -1.1%   $61.2 $264,945
2009 218,000 -13,000 -5.5%   $47.8 $219,082
2010 216,000 -2,000 -0.8%   $58.4 $269,798
2011 228,000 12,000 5.5%   $67.4 $295,215
2012 231,000 3,000 1.0%   $69.9 $303,100
2013 231,000 --- ---   $72.9 $315,414
2014 235,000 4,000 1.8%   $77.7 $330,357

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