Saturday, August 07, 2010

Region's railroads have job openings

Representatives for both Norfolk Southern and for a CSX union say increased traffic has spurred hiring.

Norfolk Southern Corp. might want you.

If you qualify.

The railroad company had 51 openings in Roanoke for hourly jobs as of Friday, and was seeking conductors, machinists, boilermakers, pipe fitters and more. These union jobs typically pay a higher wage than many other hourly positions in the region.

The hiring reflects increases in freight traffic and "a strengthening in the economy," said Robin Chapman, a spokesman for Norfolk-based Norfolk Southern. He said no hourly workers remain on furlough in Roanoke, whose historical course has traveled steel rails.

Other railroads, including CSX, are hiring too.

That trend bucks Friday's sobering news from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reported that the nation lost 131,000 jobs in July and that the jobless rate, at 9.5 percent, was the same as June's.

The bureau's report also showed that the transportation and warehousing sector added 12,000 jobs last month.

For the week ending July 31, railroads in the United States reported the highest traffic levels for the year in both carload and intermodal traffic, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday.

The week's traffic bested the same week in 2009 by 9.4 percent, but dropped 10.6 percent from 2008.

In Norfolk Southern's second-quarter financial results released July 27, the company reported profit increased 59 percent from the same period in 2009. It said improved railway revenues resulted primarily from a 22 percent increase in traffic volume. Norfolk Southern said the earnings increase reflected an improving economy.

Chapman said Norfolk Southern has been "aggressively hiring" for months as freight traffic has increased.

CSX Corp., based in Jacksonville, Fla., also has been hiring, said Richmond-based union official Tim Craver, the Virginia legislative chairman for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. He said his information about hiring is specific to CSX Corp. railroad operations in the region.

"CSX has hired back all their furloughed people and they have actually started hiring people off the street," Craver said Friday.

"[Freight] traffic has definitely picked up," he said.

CSX could not immediately be reached for comment. The company's website indicates its openings include Clifton Forge-based assistant signal workers.

In April 2009, Norfolk Southern was cutting jobs and storing rail cars because of what was then described as an unprecedented drop in freight volume.

Chapman said the railroad employs 1,719 people in Roanoke, including 1,151 hourly workers and 568 salaried employees.

He said the company "almost exclusively" accepts applications through its website, where people who are interested can click on "Job Seekers."


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