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U.S. Railroad Employment Statistics (1947-Present)

Railroad industry employment has declined significantly in the United States during recent decades. Factors contributing to this decline include increased efficiency, industry consolidation, automation with new technologies, and 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. The chart below shows annual railroad industry employment since 1947. Note that the statistics reflect direct railroad employment and exclude related industries such as railcar manufacturing. Data from Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Railroad employment stabilized in the mid-to-late 1990s. Pressures to operate more efficiently, coupled with baby boomer retirement, left some freight railroads unprepared for the recent surge in demand since 2003. This industry turnaround has created a very favorable environment for railroad employment.

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   Year Employment Change
1947 1,516,000   1979 541,000 17,000
1948 1,477,000 -39,000   1980 518,000 -23,000
1949 1,331,000 -146,000   1981 482,000 -36,000
1950 1,354,000 23,000   1982 418,000 -64,000
1951 1,411,000 57,000   1983 366,000 -52,000
1952 1,363,000 -48,000   1984 365,000 -1,000
1953 1,340,000 -23,000   1985 349,000 -16,000
1954 1,184,000 -156,000   1986 323,000 -26,000
1955 1,173,000 -11,000   1987 300,000 -23,000
1956 1,160,000 -13,000   1988 290,000 -10,000
1957 1,092,000 -68,000   1989 284,000 -6,000
1958 933,000 -159,000   1990 271,000 -13,000
1959 901,000 -32,000   1991 255,000 -16,000
1960 862,000 -39,000   1992 248,000 -7,000
1961 795,000 -67,000   1993 242,000 -6,000
1962 775,000 -20,000   1994 234,000 -8,000
1963 751,000 -24,000   1995 232,000 -2,000
1964 736,000 -15,000   1996 225,000 -7,000
1965 716,000 -20,000   1997 220,000 -5,000
1966 706,000 -10,000   1998 225,000 5,000
1967 680,000 -26,000   1999 228,000 3,000
1968 650,000 -30,000   2000 231,000 3,000
1969 632,000 -18,000   2001 226,000 -5,000
1970 617,000 -15,000   2002 217,000 -9,000
1971 589,000 -28,000   2003 219,000 2,000
1972 566,000 -23,000   2004 213,000 -6,000
1973 563,000 -3,000   2005 213,000 ---
1974 574,000 11,000   2006 208,000 -5,000
1975 533,000 -41,000   2007 213,000 5,000
1976 523,000 -10,000   2008 220,000 7,000
1977 530,000 7,000   2009 226,000 6,000
1978 524,000 -6,000   2010 227,000 1,000


 


 

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