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Economic Indicator: Freight Shipments Rose 0.2% in September from August

November 19, 2012, 06:33 AM
Filed Under: Economy

The amount of freight carried by the for-hire transportation industry rose 0.2 percent in September from August, rising after a one-month decline, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics' (BTS) Freight Transportation Services Index (TSI). The September 2012 index level (109.2) was 15.8 percent above the April 2009 low during the recession.

BTS, a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration, reported that the level of freight shipments in September measured by the Freight TSI (109.2) dropped 4.2 percent below the all-time high level of 114.0 in December 2011. BTS' TSI records began in 1990.

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.

Analysis: The Freight TSI in September 2012 continued a pattern of little change since January as some other indicators showed an uptick in economic growth.  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew 2.0 percent in the third quarter, up from 1.3 percent growth in the second quarter (though below 4.1 percent in fourth quarter of 2011), according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).  Employment grew by 0.6 percent in September.  Almost all freight modes experienced some increase in September, but rail freight showed a significant decline.

Trend: Since peaking in December 2011 (114.0) at the highest level in the 22-year history of the Freight TSI series, the index has remained in a narrow band during the nine months of 2012. It reached a high of 110.6 in February and a low of 109.0 in August. After dipping to 94.3 in April 2009 during the recession, freight shipments increased in 27 of the last 41 months, rising 15.8 percent during that period.

Index highs and lows: Freight shipments in September 2012 (109.2) were 15.8 percent higher than the recent low in April 2009 during the recession (94.3). In April 2009, freight shipments were at their lowest level since June 1997 (92.3). The September 2012 level is down 4.2 percent from the historic peak reached in December 2011 (114.0).

Long-term trend: Freight shipments are up 1.0 percent in the five years from the pre-recession level of September 2007 and up 6.5 percent in the 10 years from September 2002 despite declines in recent years.
Same month of previous year: September 2012 freight shipments rose 0.1 percent from September 2011 and 11.5 percent from September 2009, which was in the trough of the recession, but remained below the level in September 2006 (111.2) prior to the recession.

Read the full Freight Transportation Services Index report.

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