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U.S. employers added a stellar 312,000 jobs in December, trucking adds 36,600 for year

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WASHINGTON  — U.S. employers dramatically stepped up their hiring in December, adding 312,000 jobs in an encouraging display of strength for an economy in the midst of a trade war, slowing global growth and a partial shutdown of the federal government.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate rose slightly to 3.9 percent, but that reflected a surge in jobseekers— a positive for growth.

Average hourly pay improved 3.2 percent from a year ago, up from average wage growth of 2.7 percent at the end of 2017.

The for-hire trucking industry added 2,900 jobs in December, bringing the year’s total of new jobs to 36,600.

The jolt in hiring offers a dose of reassurance after a tumultuous few months as the outlook from the financial markets has turned decidedly bleaker. Job growth at this pace is a sign that the economy will continue to expand for a 10th straight year, even if overall growth slows somewhat because of the waning stimulus from President Donald Trump’s tax cuts.

Although employers are showing their confidence, the financial markets have become increasingly worried.

Major companies such as Apple say their sales are being jeopardized by the tariff-fueled trade war between the United States and China. Factory activity in China and the United States have both weakened, with the Institute for Supply Management’s U.S. manufacturing index on Thursday posting its steepest decline in a decade.

The government is about to enter its third week of a partial shutdown, with negotiations stalled over President Donald Trump’s insistence that Democrats agree on funding for a wall along the border with Mexico. And attacks by Trump on the Federal Reserve over its rate increases have raised doubts about Chairman Jay Powell’s status — a concern for both the markets and the economy.

The expected continuation of steady job growth suggests that such risks might be — for the moment, anyway — overblown. However, the stock market will have to weigh whether the strong job growth encourages the Fed to hike rates in 2019 more frequently than investors had previously anticipated.

The health care, food services, construction and manufacturing sectors were the primary contributors to last month’s hiring.

Health care and education services added 82,000 jobs in December, the biggest jump since February 2012. Restaurants and drinking placed posted a net gain of 40,700 jobs. Builders added 38,000 construction jobs, while manufacturers increased their payrolls by 32,000 workers.

Businesses are still searching for more workers. The employment site Glassdoor found that job postings have risen 17 percent in the past year to 6.7 million.

“We really don’t see any slowdown yet,” said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor.

Despite the increase in the unemployment rate, the influx of people searching for work coupled with the job gains is an indication that the rate should decline in the coming months. Economists estimate that it requires roughly 100,000 job gains each month to satisfy population growth and keep the unemployment rate at its current level.

Hiring has easily eclipsed that pace. In 2018, employers added 2.6 million jobs, or an average of nearly 217,000 a month, according to the Labor Department.

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Business

DAT: Spot rates weaken as weather clouds a sunny forecast

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This chart shows that both van and reefer rates were down based on a seven-day average compiled on March 16. (Courtesy: DAT)

PORTLAND, Ore. — Just when spot truckload rates and demand seemed ready for an upward swing, they took another hit last week.

With weather disruptions on vital truck routes in the Midwest and Rockies, van and refrigerated load-to-truck ratios slipped during the week ending March 16, said DAT Solutions, which operates the DAT network of load boards:

  • Van: 1.6 loads per truck
  • Reefer: 2.9 loads per truck
  • Flatbed: 22 loads per truck

The DAT load-to-truck ratio measures the number of loads moved on the spot market relative to the number of available trucks. National average rates declined as well compared to the previous week:

  • Van: $1.86/mile, down 2 cents
  • Reefer: $2.19/mile, down 2 cents
  • Flatbed: $2.34/mile, unchanged

Van trends

Spot van volumes remain ahead of March 2018 levels but so far this month demand for trucks is no better than it was in February 2019. Capacity is abundant and spot van rates are drifting: On DAT’s top 100 van lanes last week, pricing fell on 53 and rose on 36. Eleven lanes were neutral.

Where Rates Were Up: With freight markets in the Midwest struggling with unusual weather, there was a ripple effect for supply chains. For instance, the challenge of getting freight into Denver last week led to an 18-cent increase in the average rate from Seattle to Salt Lake City ($1.90/mile). On the other hand, the extra West Coast trucks in Salt Lake City caused rates on the lane from there to Stockton, California, to decline.

What to Watch: Expect a boost in flatbed pricing as the demand to move heavy machinery and construction materials into the region picks up. High demand for flatbeds in the coming weeks may cause van availability to tighten on some lanes.

Reefer trends

The national average spot reefer rate has declined in seven of the last eight weeks. On the top 72 reefer lanes, 26 lanes moved up while 43 lanes fell and three were neutral. We’re waiting on California and Florida produce to pull rates higher.

Where Rates Were Up: Sacramento, California, to Salt Lake City jumped 40 cents to $2.35/mile, possibly due to trouble getting into Denver. In the Midwest, two lanes from Grand Rapids, Michigan, rebounded from last week:

  • Grand Rapids to Madison, Wisconsin, increased 22 cents to $2.58/mile
  • Grand Rapids to Atlanta added 21 cents to $2.71/mile

Where Rates Fell: Many of the prior week’s gainers came back to earth, including Elizabeth, New Jersey, to Boston (down 38 cents to $3.81/mile) and Philadelphia to Miami (off 22 cents to $1.96/mile).

DAT Trendlines are generated using DAT RateView, which provides real-time reports on spot market and contract rates, as well as historical rate and capacity trends. The RateView database is comprised of more than $60 billion in freight payments.

DAT load boards average 1.2 million load posts searched per business day.

For the latest spot market load availability and rate information, visit dat.com/trendlines and follow @LoadBoards on Twitter.

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ACT: Current Class 8 story is big backlogs, slowing orders

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ACT says heavy commercial vehicle markets continue to benefit from key triggers and new technologies, (Courtesy: VOLVO TRUCKS)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — In the release of its Commercial Vehicle Dealer Digest, ACT Research said that recently softer Class 8 orders are attributed to backlogs that are still out about 10 months.

Many of the orders normally booked in the year’s first quarter were actually placed in the rush to get into the queue in the second half of 2018.

The report provides monthly analysis on transportation trends, equipment markets, and the economy.

“The rolling-over of ACT’s dashboard guidance suggests today’s order weakness will transition from ‘too much backlog’ to an equipment supply-freight demand imbalance in the near future,” said Kenny Vieth, ACT’s president and senior analyst. “That said, heavy commercial vehicle markets continue to benefit from key triggers, including still-strong freight rates (being marked-down from record levels) and new technologies, like better fuel efficiency and safety technologies, as well as increased demand generated in the trailer segment for drop-and-hook to keep drivers moving.”

ACT Research is a publisher of commercial vehicle truck, trailer, and bus industry data, market analysis and forecasting services for the North American and China markets. ACT’s analytical services are used by all major North American truck and trailer manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as banking and investment companies.

More information can be found at www.actresearch.net.

 

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ATA truck tonnage index down 0.2 percent in February

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Despite the February decline, the index was 5.4 percent higher than February 2018. (The Trucker file photo)

ARLINGTON, Va. — The American Trucking Associations’ advanced seasonally adjusted (SA) For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index was down 0.2 percent in February after increasing 2.5 percent in January. In February, the index equaled 117.4 (2015=100) compared with 117.6 in January.

“After a strong January, I’m pleasantly surprised that the index didn’t fall much last month,” said ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello. “I continue to expect tonnage to moderate like other indicators, including retail sales, manufacturing activity and housing starts. Additionally, the level of inventories throughout the supply chain have increased, which is a drag on truck freight.”

January’s reading was revised up slightly compared with our February press release.

Compared with February 2018, the SA index increased 5.4 percent, down from January’s 5.8 percent gain. In 2018, the index increased 6.7 percent over 2017, which was the largest annual gain since 1998.

The not seasonally adjusted index, which represents the change in tonnage actually hauled by the fleets before any seasonal adjustment, equaled 106.9 in February, 5.7 percent below January’s level (113.3). In calculating the index, 100 represents 2015.

Trucking serves as a barometer of the U.S. economy, representing 70.2 percent of tonnage carried by all modes of domestic freight transportation, including manufactured and retail goods. Trucks hauled 10.77 billion tons of freight in 2017. Motor carriers collected $700.1 billion, or 79.3 percent of total revenue earned by all transport modes.

ATA calculates the tonnage index based on surveys from its membership and has been doing so since the 1970s. This is a preliminary figure and subject to change in the final report issued around the 5th day of each month. The report includes month-to-month and year-over-year results, relevant economic comparisons, and key financial indicators.

 

 

 

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