Trucking adds jobs in December
With November revision, employment rises by 5,600
Trucking companies added 2,600 new employees on a seasonally adjusted basis in December on top of an upward revision in the November estimate. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics added 3,000 jobs to its initial November figures, so the number of trucking jobs reported for December actually is 5,600 higher than what BLS reported for November a month ago.
Payroll employment in December was 18,800 jobs higher than the same 2009 month, making December the third straight month in which employment grew on a year-over-year basis. Until October, trucking employment levels had not been higher than the same month the previous year since June 2007. Since March, trucking companies have added 22,900 jobs, according to the latest estimates.
According to preliminary BLS figures, total employment in trucking in December was more than 1.25 million – down 203,100, or 14 percent, from peak trucking employment in January 2007. The BLS numbers reflect all payroll employment in for-hire trucking, but they don’t include trucking-related jobs in other industries, such as a truck driver for a private fleet. Nor do the numbers reflect the total amount of hiring since they only include new jobs, not replacements for existing positions.
Figures for trucking do not include the express delivery companies, which fall under the category of “couriers and messenger” in BLS data. According to preliminary numbers, employment in that category rose by 3,300 over a strong November jump as companies like UPS and FedEx added temporary jobs related to peak holiday season deliveries.
Manufacturing growth continues in December
Economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in December for the 17th consecutive month, according to the Institute for Supply Management’s monthly survey of U.S. supply executives. The PMI — ISM’s composite index of manufacturing activity — stood at 57 percent in December, up from 56.6 percent in November.
Perhaps even more encouraging for trucking executives are the indexes for the new orders and production components of the PMI. The index of new orders was up 4.3 points to 60.9 percent, while the production index was up 5.7 percent to 60.7 percent.
“The manufacturing sector continued its growth trend as indicated by this month’s report,” says Norbert Ore, chairman of ISM’s Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. “We saw significant recovery for much of the U.S. manufacturing sector in 2010. The recovery centered on strength in autos, metals, food, machinery, computers and electronics, while those industries tied primarily to housing continue to struggle.” Manufacturers that export have benefitted from both global demand and the weaker dollar, Ore said.
* Class 8 truck total net orders for all major North American OEMs totaled 25,247 units in December – only a 3 percent drop from the strong November activity, according to preliminary data from FTR Associates.
* The Freight Transportation Services Index fell 0.3 percent in November from October, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported.
* New orders for manufactured goods increased 0.7 percent in November to $423.8 billion.
* The ratio of inventories to sales throughout the U.S. economy dropped to 1.25 on a seasonally adjusted basis in November as rising sales outpaced rising inventories.
* Permits authorized for residential construction in December rose 16.7 percent over November but were 6.8 percent below December 2009. Housing starts were up 4.3 percent over November but were 8.2 percent below December 2009.
* The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration expects diesel to average $3.40 a gallon nationwide in 2011 – up from $2.99 in 2010.
* Construction spending during November was estimated at 0.4 percent higher than a revised October figure but 6 percent below November 2009.
* Adjusted sales of merchant wholesalers were $370.1 billion in November, up 1.9 percent from October and 12.2 percent from November 2009.
ATA tonnage index up 2.2% in December
The American Trucking Associations’ advance seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased 2.2 percent in December after falling a revised 0.6 percent in November. The latest improvement put the adjusted index at 111.6 in December, the highest level since September 2008. In November, the adjusted index stood at 109.2.
The nonadjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 107.2 in December, down 1 percent from the previous month. Compared with December 2009, adjusted tonnage climbed 4.2 percent, which was higher than November’s 3.3 percent year-over-year increase. For all of 2010, tonnage was up 5.7 percent compared with 2009. In 2009, the index plunged 8.7 percent.
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello says December’s improvement fits well with the seesaw pattern that many carriers are reporting. “Fleets continue to tell me that freight volumes are very choppy – up one week, but down the next,” Costello says. “That is a trend that is likely to continue this year, as the economy is not growing across the board yet.”
Still, Costello said it was a positive sign for the economy that adjusted tonnage reached its highest level in 27 months. “I continue to expect truck freight tonnage to grow modestly during the first half of 2011 and accelerate in the later half of the year into 2012,” he says.
ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons and key financial indicators. The baseline year is 2000.