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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

More than 20,000 workers in the railroad industry lost jobs this past year, even as the U.S. economy continued its streak of moderate growth, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Those numbers represent the biggest round of layoffs in the sector since the Great Recession — nearly a 10% drop in rail employment, per Labor Department data. Changes in the rail industry highlight signs of "ongoing pain" in the industrial sector, threatening middle-class jobs, the Post writes.

  • Some economists say American railways are enduring a "freight recession," with volumes dramatically dropping last year, notes the Post.

The state of play: President Trump's trade war has impacted U.S. agriculture and manufacturing, which in turn lowered demand for railroads to move products. The decline is also a result of the U.S. becoming less dependent on coal.

Yes, but: Railroad stocks soared after industry executives integrated automation and cost-cutting strategies to maintain profitability, "doubling down on the idea that rail's future entails longer, faster trains and fewer workers," per the Post.

  • Employment losses are expanding thanks to a technique called Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which efficiently directs rail traffic.
  • Some on Wall Street view these shifts as a model for other industries during tough times. Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific stocks jumped 30% last year, according to the Post.

Worth noting: Rail industry leaders remain optimistic as Trump looks to finalize the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), as well as a trade deal with China.

The bottom line: Freight declines have previously foreshadowed economic slumps "because they’re a barometer of how much stuff is heading to market," the Post writes.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Political consultants pocket taxpayer cash

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Members of Congress are turning to the same political consultants who got them elected to blast out taxpayer-funded communications from their government offices, records show.

Why it matters: While those members are barred from politicking with official funds, the firms have expertise in boosting elected officials' images for political gain and are in high demand for both campaign and government work.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America
  3. Politics: Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker
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Schumer pushes for doomed filibuster changes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addresses reporters Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the Democratic caucus Tuesday night he plans to propose instituting a one-time "talking" filibuster requirement, and bypassing the 60-vote threshold for major legislation, to pass the party's election reforms package via simple majority.

Why it matters: While Schumer acknowledged both votes are expected to fail — and some vulnerable Democrats up for re-election feel it will put them in a tough spot — he argued it's worth putting members on the record for historic legislation.