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Supply Chain by the Numbers
   
 

- Sept. 7, 2017 -

   
  Supply Chain by the Numbers for Week of Sept. 7, 2017
   
 

Unionization Rates Still Headed Down in US; Real Driver Crisis May Still be Years Away; Amazon Expands Treasure Truck Cities; US Trade Deficits with China, Mexico are Headed back Up

   
 
 
 

6.4%

That is the percent of private sector workers that were unionized at the end of 2016, as we reported last week in our annual Labor (Day) Supply Chain column by SCDigest editor Dan Gilmore. That very low 6.4% is down from 6.7% in 2015 and continues the powerful long-term trend of a steady decline since the Labor Department started reporting on it in 1983, when overall unionization private sector unionization was 16.8%. It was even higher in decades before that. Together, there were 14.5 million private and public sector employees in a union in 2016, down from 14.8 million 2015, and well down from 17.7 million in 1983 when the total US labor force was much smaller. The number of US manufacturing workers that are union members fell in 2016 to just 8.8% from 9.4% in 2015 - that is quite a drop. That means less than one in 11 US manufacturing workers are unionized today, versus 17.5% in 1994. According to unionstats.com, 38% of private sector manufacturing workers were in unions as recently as 1973. Don't think that this is only a US trend - unionization is also way down in once labor friendly countries such as France and Sweden. One has to wonder what the future is for private sector unions in the US, for better or worse.
 
 


 
 
 

$33.6 Billion

That was the US trade deficit in goods with China in July, the highest level in 11 months, according to figures released this week by the Census Bureau, as US imports are back on the rise. After falling a bit year over year for much of 2016, imports from China have generally been up in 2017, and through July the trade deficit in goods with China is $204.2 billion, up from $191.2 billion through the same period in 2016, or a rise of 6.8%. A similarly trade story with Mexico, though on a much smaller scale. The trade deficit in goods with the US's southern neighbor tallies $41.2 billion through July, up 11.9% from the $36.8 billion at this point in 2016. Trade deficits in goods year-to-date with other countries include $36. 1 billion with Germany, $13.1 with South Korea, $21.7 billion with Vietnam, $13.6 billion with India, and $11.3 billion with Canada.

 
 
 
 
 

11

That's how many metro markets in which Amazon will now be operating its Treasure Truck sales channel. That after Amazon announced that it would add the service in San Diego, Minneapolis, Boston, Orlando and Miami.. What is a Treasure Truck? Something kind of like a web flash sale on wheels. Customers can get one-day-only bargains on everything from video game consoles to steaks. After originating in Seattle in February 2016, the Treasure Truck started to operations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Atlanta at the end of July. Amazon says on the official Treasure Truck website that it won't "spill the beans" on where the truck in a market is headed next, but encourages users to stay tuned and sign up for text notifications for when a truck is sent their way. SCDigest, operating out of Ohio, hasn't laid eyes on one. If you find an item you want from one of the Amazon messages to Treasure Truck subscribers, you can order only of each item and Amazon will let you know where the truck is so that you can go and pick it up. Rather than having a store in a fixed location, Amazon parks the truck somewhere in your city and you have to go find it to pick up your purchase. But it must be working, else why is Amazon expanding to new cities? Our experience is many people will go to great lengths to secure a real bargain.

 
 
 
 

5-10

That's how many years it may be before the US sees a real crisis from a truck driver shortage, in the shipping disaster often said to be right around the quarter but which never seems to show up. That according to comments in the press this week from Steve Viscelli, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania who recently wrote a book about the tough life of truckers - after spending some time as a driver himself as part of his research. There are many conflicting data points and observations - such as the ATA saying the US is still missing some 50,000 drivers, but with turnover rates at large carriers near historic lows and freigth rates tame. Go figure. An interesting scenario is that if it appears that autonomous trucks are going to obviate the need for millions of drivers in the end, it may push many out of or away from the profession now. Who wants to go into a field where a huge percentage of the jobs will soon be lost to technology? And that's where the perfect storm could actually come in, causing a true driver shortage crisis. If hundreds of thousands leave the profession or fail to join it over fears of automation, but that automation takes much longer to make it to the market than people might think, then a real problem could emerge, leaving carriers and shipper scrambling. But not likely any time real soon.


 
 
 
 
 
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