Freight Transportation Services Index, October 2011-October 2016. Graphic: U.S. DOT

Freight Transportation Services Index, October 2011-October 2016. Graphic: U.S. DOT

The amount of for-hire freight moved in the U.S. increased following two months of declines, according to new Transportation Department figures.

Its Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI) rose 1% in October from September, the third largest hike since November 2014, putting the measure at 122, 2.1% below the all-time high level of 124.6 recorded this past July. Despite the improvement freight shipments fell 0.6% from October 2015.

The September index was revised downward to 120.8 from 121.5 in last month’s release while monthly numbers for January through August remained virtually unchanged.

The Freight TSI measures the month-to-month changes in freight shipments by mode of transportation in tons and ton-miles, which are 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 improvement in the October Freight TSI from September was due to growth in trucking and rail intermodal, while all other modes declined, according to the department.

The October increase took place alongside growth in other economic indicators; employment increased by 161,000 jobs, retail sales increased by 0.8%, personal income increased by 0.6%, and housing starts rose by 25.5%. The Federal Reserve’s measure of industrial production was unchanged in October as its mining and manufacturing components increased while utility output declined.

Since the beginning of 2015, the index has been extremely stable as it fluctuated above and below 122. It has deviated only twice by more than 1% from the 122 level, in March 2016 when it fell 1.9% below 122 to a two-year low, and in July 2016 when it rose 2.1% above 122 to reach an all-time high. The index has risen 28.8% since the historic low of 94.8 in April 2009.

Freight shipments measured by the index were up 0.4% in October compared to the end of 2015 and are 9.4% higher in the five years from October 2011 while up 10.1% in the 10 years from October 2006.