June 13, 2012
The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 0.2% in April from March, rising after a one-month decline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics' Freight Transportation Services Index. The April 2012 level was 16.2% above the April 2009 low during the recession. BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments measured by the Freight TSI, 109.6, declined from December 2011's revised mark of 114 which was the all-time high since 1990 when BTS' TSI records began. The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments by mode of transportation in ton-miles, which are then combined into one index. The index measures the output of the for-hire freight transportation industry and consists of data from for-hire trucking, rail, inland waterways, pipelines and air freight. The Freight TSI has shown little change since dropping in January from its December peak. The recent plateauing of the freight TSI since January appears to reflect slowing growth in the general economy. GDP growth slowed to 1.9% in 1Q 2012, from 3% in 4Q 2011, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Changes in employment and personal income suggest that the slower growth continued in April, which is consistent with the lack of change in the freight TSI. Personal income grew by only 0.2% in April after higher growth in the previous four months, according to BEA, and total nonfarm employment grew by only 77,000 jobs, down from 143,000 in March, and over 200,000 in each of the prior two months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.