‘Tis the Season for Courier and Messenger Delivery Services

by Gail Krumenauer

November 29, 2017

Even before the turkey hits the table, retailers and e-tailers alike work to entice holiday shoppers with deals. Whether bought in a store or fulfilled online, many seasonal gifts make their way to friends and family through delivery services.

December Deliveries

The private couriers and messengers subsector shows a distinctive seasonal pattern. Over the past decade, couriers and messengers establishments have ramped up hiring in the fourth quarter, hitting an employment peak in December each year. In the past few years, December job totals have averaged 2,500 above annual employment. After the flurry of holiday deliveries, sector employment winds down and generally hits a low in either April or July.
The seasonal swing in employment became more pronounced from 2006 to 2016. The difference between peak (December) employment and the lowest employment month in the same year generally ranged between 1,200 and 1,700 jobs from 2006 to 2012. In 2013, the seasonal swing in payroll employment rose to 2,000, and continued to grow to 3,000 in 2014 and 2015. By 2016, the difference between monthly job highs and lows totaled 3,700.

More to Your Door

In addition to more December deliveries, payrolls in couriers and messengers businesses also benefit from greater demand for online shopping and deliveries to our doors year round. The couriers and messengers subsector consists of two parts: couriers and express delivery services, and local messengers and local delivery. Each component has a different primary purpose; both have grown rapidly.

Couriers and express delivery services consists of businesses engaged in statewide, cross-country, or international parcel delivery by air, road, or some combined mode of transport. This is the industry where you’ll find those big brown trucks, along with their counterparts and some locally based package delivery service companies too. Between 2006 and 2016, these businesses collectively added 1,500 jobs, an increase of 25 percent. Holiday deliveries certainly contributed to that average annual growth. Employment in December alone grew by 40 percent over the decade. Even those slower months showed healthy gains too, with greater year-round package delivery demand boosting jobs by 19 percent in April and 20 percent in July.
Local messengers and local delivery establishments primarily deliver small items within a single metropolitan area or smaller service area. Delivery items may include items such as business-to-business paperwork, produce to restaurants, or groceries to your home. Although a much smaller industry than express delivery services, the local messengers have experienced similar growth. Local messengers and local delivery grew from 850 jobs in 2006 to 1,070 jobs in 2016, for a gain of 26 percent. Similarly, December employment grew by 46 percent, and although April added relatively few jobs (80 jobs or 10%) over the decade, July job gains reached 24 percent. Amazon.com also started making its mark in this small industry at the end of 2016, which could drive some change in future years.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Speaking of Amazon: One side-effect of increased demand for delivered items has occurred in employment at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). After employment declines in 12 of 13 years, postal service jobs have increased in Oregon each year since 2012. While that can’t be solely attributed to their Sunday deliveries for Amazon – which began in Oregon in 2014 – the behemoth e-tailer’s exclusive agreement with USPS has likely boosted jobs for postal part-timers, even in the face of fewer penned letters and the postal service’s funding challenges.

Given the continued growth of e-commerce, particularly during the holidays, and the expanding presence of Amazon in Oregon and elsewhere, the outlook is good for private couriers and messengers. Between 2014 and 2024, they are expected to add 1,500 jobs, a gain of 21 percent.

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