Big gains in the number of trucking jobs in February and March have more than made up for a surprising loss in January, bringing the for-hire jobs total a record high.

The March gain of 4,700 jobs puts the for-hire trucking total at 1.4768 million, that’s 2,600 more jobs than the previous high set last December, and 243,600 (19.7%) more trucking jobs than were reported in March 2010, the low point in the economic downturn, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Dept. of Labor. The new total is 24,700 more jobs than in March last year.

This comes as the overall U.S. economy added only 98,000 jobs last month, substantially less than the 180,000 new jobs forecast by economists and well below gains of more than 200,000 jobs in both January and February. Still, the national unemployment rate slipped to 4.5%, the lowest in nearly a decade.

Collectively, transportation and warehousing gained 3,500 jobs for the month as the trucking surge was offset by a jobs loss in transit and ground passenger transportation.

In the broader economy over the month, employment growth occurred in professional and business services (+56,000) and in mining (+11,000), while retail trade lost jobs (-30,000).

Construction employment changed little in March (+6,000), following a gain of 59,000 in February. Employment in construction has been trending up since late last summer, largely among specialty trade contractors and in residential building, according to the report.

Employment in other major industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, leisure and hospitality, and government, showed little or no change over the month.