A key measure of freight shipping in the United States slipped back 0.2 percent in May from the month before, a new sign that the economy is losing momentum heading into the summer.
The Cass Freight Index for shipments released Monday slipped back on a month-to-month basis for the first time since January following slim sequential expansion over the past three months.
The shipments index in May was 9.6 percent ahead of the same month a year ago, but even that marked the slowest year-over-year gain Cass Information Systems has reported in the monthly index since last July.
The increase comes as a broad array of government and private industry figures show the economic recovery is hitting what observers are calling a slow patch, with measures from factory orders to rail commodity carloads flattening out or falling.
“The economy is in a stall, and what remains to be seen is the extent,” Cass said in releasing the figures. “The economy began to weaken after the impacts of the federal stimulus diminished, and contraction in the public sector has removed jobs and funds that went into the private sector. Manufacturers have responded to declining demand by slowing production and laying off workers.”
U.S. shippers are paying more to move goods, Cass said, with the expenditures index in May up 29.9 percent over last year and 1.7 percent ahead of the April figure.
But the slim month-to-month growth marked the third straight month of decelerating trends in that spending figure and likely came from higher energy costs rather than improving demand.