Despite bleak jobs report, transportation sector sees gains

The transportation sector added 36,000 jobs in the month of May, despite an overall increase in the national unemployment rate to 8.2 percent.

Statistics released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the U.S. economy added only 69,000 jobs in May, but employment in the transportation industry increased from 4.342 million in April to 4.378 million in May.

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The transportation sector employment numbers were up from 4.359 million in May of 2011.

The BLS said the biggest increase in transportation employment was in transit and ground transportation, which saw an increase of 20,000 jobs from April to May.

The air transportation industry saw a slight decline of about 900 jobs during the same time period.

Supporters of a new highway bill being considered by Congress have argued that passing the proposed legislation will boost employment in the transportation sector.

"For too long Washington gridlock has strangled our economy as too many lawmakers have pushed partisan agendas at the expense of real job creation," AFL-CIO Transportation Trades President Edward Wytkind said in a statement about the overall jobs report.

"The aviation modernization and jobs bill was held up for years because certain Republicans employed hostage-taking strategies in an attempt to repeal fair aviation and rail union election rules on behalf of anti-union airlines," he continued. "The pending surface transportation reauthorization is the same story all over again. This jobs bill is being held hostage by too many lawmakers who want to score political points with their political base rather than inject billions into our failing highways, bridges and transit systems."

The Associated General Contractors of America noted that the number of construction jobs had declined by 28,000 in May. They also argued Friday that Congress agreeing on a transportation bill would be helpful to their industry.

“Getting a highway and transit bill passed would certainly help counter any possible backslide in construction employment,” AGCA CEO Stephen Sandherr said in statement. “While the overall economy will need to be much stronger before private sector construction activity and employment begins to approach pre-recession levels, investments in infrastructure will certainly help put more construction workers back on the job.”

A conference committee is Congress is currently attempting to find a compromise between a two-year, $109-billion transportation bill that was passed by the Senate with two temporary extensions of current funding that were approved by the House.

Funding for highway and transit programs is scheduled to expire June 30. The House has passed an extension through Sept. 30, but that measure needs to be approved by the Senate in order to become law.