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Trucking-based leading indicator slips slightly in April

By The Trucker News Services
Posted May 12th 2011 6:10AM

MINNEAPOLIS and LOS ANGELES — The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index, based on truck stop diesel sales,  fell 0.5 percent on a seasonally and workday adjusted basis in April, marking a continuation of the see-saw economic performance experienced over the past twelve months.

Though down in April, the decline offset only a fraction of the exceptional 2.7 percent gain posted in March, which was sufficient to drive continued growth in the three month moving average of the PCI, noted Ed Leamer, chief PCI economist and director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

"However, the disappointing 1.8 percent growth of real GDP in the first quarter remained consistent with the pattern of modest, fitful economic growth reflected by the PCI since the first quarter of 2010,” Leamer said. “The most recent report reinforces our long held cautious, below consensus outlook for growth in GDP and employment

Until the PCI accelerates, Leamer expects monthly employment gains to remain range bound between 150,000 and 200,000 new jobs. For the second quarter, the PCI suggests GDP growth in the 2 percent to 3 percent range, not the 5 percent to 6 percent range necessary to drive meaningful reductions in unemployment, he said.

Year-over-year growth in April was again positive, up 3.5 percent. This was the seventeenth straight month of year-over-year improvement in the Index and a clear indication that the economic recovery continues, the report noted.

From an absolute standpoint, GDP remains ahead of the previous peak reached in Q407. But the PCI and industrial production are still about 5 percent below their previous peaks —meaning that the goods producing component of GDP is still well below its previous high.

"Over time, the PCI has shown a substantial correlation with Industrial Production," explained Craig Manson, senior vice president and Index expert for Ceridian. "In fact, the PCI forecast of 0.8 percent growth in industrial production for March matched the estimate subsequently released by the Federal Reserve. This was the second straight month that the PCI matched the subsequent government estimate. Based on the relatively weak April result, the PCI is calling for growth of 0.25 percent in industrial production when the government reports its number on May 17."

The complete April report, regional analysis and additional commentary are available at . The site offers further detail such as Index graphs and downloadable data, video commentary and sound bites, information on how the data is obtained, and the opportunity to receive updates on the latest information via e-mail and RSS feeds.

The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index is based on real-time diesel fuel consumption data for over the road trucking and serves as an indicator of the state and possible future direction of the U.S. economy. By tracking the volume and location of fuel being purchased, the index closely monitors the over the road movement of raw materials, goods-in-process and finished goods to U.S. factories, retailers and consumers.

Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at [email protected] .