The rise of online shopping and on-demand delivery has changed the economy as we know it; it is now common to see boxes with the Amazon Prime shipping label stacked on the doorsteps of homes across America, while more and more traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are closing their doors for good. And to keep pace with this rise in on-demand shopping with affordable delivery—colloquially dubbed the “Amazon Prime Effect”—warehouse capacity, truck fleets, and supply chain logistics are growing and expanding as well.

Tracking the Data: Couriers and Messengers

One way to measure this dramatic change is to examine holiday hiring data for “Couriers and Messengers”—typically the truck and delivery drivers that bring all those packages from the warehouse to your home—provided by the Transportation and Warehousing sector of the economy.

Amazon launched its Prime delivery service to subscribers in 2005—coincidentally the same year that we first heard the phrase “Cyber Monday”, the Monday after Thanksgiving when consumers drive online shopping in preparation for the holiday season. The animated graph below clearly shows the meteoric rise in holiday hiring (4th quarter employment sum) of delivery couriers and messengers. Only slowing down a bit in 2008 during the Great Recession, holiday hiring rose at an increasing rate through 2015. Since then, that employment has consistently leveled off as online shopping is now no longer seasonally limited to Cyber Monday—evidenced by the dissolution of notable companies like Toys R Us, whose once proud brand thrived on holiday commerce.

Seasonal Hiring? Yes and No

The graph below shows the steady increasing trend in employment of couriers and messengers, with surges around November and December as companies prepare for the holiday shopping season. And yet the increase in Couriers is not just limited to the holiday season. While many of these workers are let go in January and February, more and more of them remain as online retail is now a year-round business.

Graph showing the Employment of Couriers and Messengers 2008-2019

The Value of This New Employment Market Data

The Amazon Prime effect and other trends are important to understand for those businesses that employ seasonality in their hiring. But this data is also helpful for recruiters, community groups, and workers to know where the employment opportunities will be, particularly during the holiday season. Additionally, this data is invaluable for both companies and policy makers who choose to take a big picture look at this new labor market paradigm and what it means for workers and local communities:

  • Can workforce boards, community colleges, and chambers of commerce look to provide on-ramps to up-skilling opportunities for workers who come off the holiday hiring season looking for additional opportunities to stay engaged in the labor force past February?
  • As brick-and-mortar retailers shut their doors, will their workers move into delivery and warehousing jobs?
  • Will the push for automated vehicles disrupt this growing employment of couriers sooner than we think?

These are all open questions, but the data provides context of a new movement in the employment market.

At Nexight, this kind of data and trend analysis is our passion. We excel at interpreting it and distilling it down to the most impactful insights for the right target audience. You can see our analysis in action by following our monthly Jobs Report thread on Twitter or viewing other examples of our analysis work.