Following February's 0.7 percent drop, the Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index (PCI) by UCLA Anderson School of Management managed to gain 1 percent in March, growing from 107.4 to 108.5.
The PCI represents real-time diesel fuel consumption data from over-the-road trucking tracked by Ceridian, a provider of electronic and stored value card payment services and human resources solutions.

While the PCI measured year-over-year declines prior to December 2009, March marks the fourth straight month the index has seen year-over-year improvements.

"The good news in March is that the economy is still recovering at a pace that should support job growth, although unfortunately not at a pace that will drive rapid improvement in the unemployment rate," said Ed Leamer, chief economist for the PCI. "GDP needs to grow at a 5 to 6 percent rate to drive meaningful change in unemployment."

According to the UCLA Anderson School of Management, the newest PCI data also suggests that expected GDP growth for the first quarter of 2010 is 4 percent, putting the economic indicator at the high end of forecasts. The PCI also suggests Industrial Production will grow at a healthy 0.5 percent when the Federal Reserve releases that number on April 15.

For the first quarter of 2010, the PCI grew at an annualized rate of 9.7 percent, which does not offset the 14 percent and 16 percent drops in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, respectively. "In other words, we fell into the recession much more rapidly than we are climbing out of it," Leamer said.

The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index data also shows that areas most hit by heavy snowfall in February rebounded nicely in March. The Mid Atlantic region grew by 4.3 percent in a single month, following a February fall of 2.5 percent. The New England and East North Central regions also grew by 2.7 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively, offsetting declines in February. The only regions that didn't see growth in March were the West North Central and the West South Central areas.

"March was another solid month but we need to see even stronger growth in the coming months to propel job growth in 2010," said Craig Manson, senior vice president and index expert for Ceridian.

The complete March report and additional commentary are available at