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North American freight volumes rose 1.9 percent from March to April 2012. Spending on freight transportation grew at a faster rate and was up 3.4 percent. Not surprising, with the slow growth in the economy.
Shipment volume has been rising slowly and steadily since January 2012. April’s 1.9 percent increase is lower than the increases in March and February – 2.1 and 2.5 percent respectively. While still positive, the rate of growth declined in both March and April 2012. April’s sequential growth is a scant 0.2 percent higher than April 2011.
Truck tonnage has been trending upward in the American Trucking Associations’ Truck Tonnage Index, but length of haul has been declining.
Ton‐mile volume for railroads was down 4.8 percent in April compared to 2011, and has lagged in year‐over-year comparisons since the end of February (coal is a major factor in the declines). Intermodal volume, on the other hand, is up 5.9 percent year over year.
The economy is showing signs of sustainable, but low, growth in 2012. There have been many positive signs, but each has a cautionary note. The unemployment rate fell, but the number of new jobs created during the period was well below previous figures. Some of the drop in unemployment is due to discouraged workers dropping out of the workforce; it is expected that they will return when the economy provides better prospects for employment.