CSX has rehired more than 1,000 workers who were laid off last year.
After sharp declines in business in 2009, Jacksonville’s two public railroad companies are on track for better results this year. Analysts say increased freight volumes at CSX Corp., RailAmerica and nearly every major railroad in the country are strong signals that the nation’s economy is recovering.
CSX is one of the top five employers in Jacksonville, with 3,400 employees. Last year it saw a 15% decline in freight volume that led it to mothball trains and furlough more than 2,000 employees nationwide, including about 40 in Jacksonville.
CSX (NYSE-CSX) has been riding a bullish market for railroad stocks fueled by Warren Buffett’s $26-billion investment in Burlington Northern Santa Fe last November. CSX’s stock price has doubled in a year, trading at $54 in May, near its 52-week high. RailAmerica (NYSE-RA), which went public in October, has held steady at about $13.
Meanwhile short-rail regional carrier RailAmerica, also based in Jacksonville, saw a 5% increase in carloads in the first quarter after declines that began in 2006. CEO John Giles says the company contracted its workforce by about 7% nationally but expects to begin hiring again if carloads continue to increase as expected. RailAmerica saw the biggest increases in metals, agricultural products and chemicals. “We’re very encouraged,” Giles says. “We’re seeing evidence of economic recovery across North America.”