Another 663,000 jobs were lost in March and unemployment rose, while for-hire trucking payrolls fell nearly 15,000. However, there were some glimmers of hope in some numbers last week that are used to measure the manufacturing sector.

The new job losses bring the total number of Americans that have lost their jobs to 5.1 million since this recession began last year. The overall unemployment rate has increased to 8.5 percent, which is up half a percentage point from February.

According to the economists at the American Trucking Associations, for-hire trucking payrolls fell by 14,900 in March. The good news, however, is that the Department of Labor revised its January and February numbers, saying they had overstated the job loss. The DOL originally reported that trucking employment fell by 24,800 and 33,400 in January and February, respectively. Last week, they reported that payrolls decreased 17,500 in January and another 12,900 in February. "In other words, they previously overstated the drop during that twomonth
period by a whopping 27,800," said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello.

Also last week, the Institute for Supply Management announced that its purchasing managers' index (PMI), a widely used measure of overall manufacturing activity, was up slightly, from 35.8 percent in February to 36.3 in March. However, a reading above 50 percent indicates that the manufacturing economy is generally expanding; below 50 percent indicates that it is generally contracting.

The Census Bureau reported that new factory orders in February rose a 1.8 percent after falling for six months in a row. Most industries saw gains during February, including machinery,
computers and electronic products, and transportation equipment.

Despite the monthly improvement, however, Costello noted that "total new orders were still off 18.8 percent from a year earlier, the third-worst year-over-year contraction of this cycle. Thus, we still have a long way to go before we can say that the manufacturing industry is on the road to recovery."