The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry was unchanged in May from April, after a one-month rise, according to the Freight Transportation Services Index from the DOT's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
The May 2012 index level (109.6) was 16.3% above the April 2009 low during the recession.
BTS, a part of DOT's Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments in May measured by the Freight TSI, 109.6, dropped 3.8% from the level of December 2011 (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. Gross Domestic Product growth slowed to 1.9% in the first quarter of 2012, from 3% in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Changes in employment and personal income suggest that the slower growth continued in May, which is consistent with the lack of change in the freight TSI. Personal income grew by only 0.2% in May and April after higher growth in the previous four months, according to BEA, and total nonfarm employment grew by only 80,000 jobs in May for a second quarter monthly average of 75,000 new jobs, down from a monthly average of 226,000 new jobs in the first quarter, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.