Growth in freight shipments and payments slowed in April, indicating constrained consumer spending and near-term slowing of the economy, the monthly Cass Freight Index showed.
Freight shipments rose 0.45 percent from March while freight spending increased 2.6 percent, according to the index, published by Cass Information Systems. The index is based on data from more than 100 shippers with $17 billion of annual transportation spending.
Year-to-year comparisons continue to rise, the index showed. Shipments in April were up 12.3 percent from April 2010, while freight spending increased 34.9 percent, largely because of fuel surcharges. The higher shipment volume “is a good indicator that although the economy is not expanding rapidly, it is in fact climbing out of the depths of the recession,” Cass said.
“Overall, the first quarter of 2011 was solid, with growth in freight despite the weather that hampered logistics in January and February,” Cass said. “Despite some potent signs that the economy has entered a lull, it should be short-lived as we move toward what are traditionally strong seasons for the freight industry.”
Many economic gauges indicate the economy is slowing, but this “will not mean a return to the recession but rather a tempering of growth in the economy,” Cass said. “Unemployment is still a major deterrent to economic growth, with initial jobless claims trending upward.”
New filings for unemployment benefits surged last week by a seasonally adjusted 43,000 — the biggest weekly jump in more than two years, the Labor Department said. The number of new claims filed during the April 26-30 week was 474,000, the highest since last August.