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Unemployment hits 49-year low at 3.7% in September; trucking adds 600 jobs

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WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added just 134,000 jobs in September, the fewest in a year, though the figure was likely lowered by Hurricane Florence, while the unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent, the lowest level since 1969.

Hurricane Florence struck North and South Carolina in the middle of September and closed thousands of businesses. A category that includes restaurants, hotels and casinos lost jobs for the first time since last September, when Hurricane Harvey had a similar effect.

Even with unemployment now at a historic low, average hourly pay increased just 2.8 percent from a year earlier in September, one tick below the yearly gain in August.

The for-hire trucking industry added  only 600 jobs in September, but has added a total of 69,400 jobs thus far in 2018 and has added over 86,000 since January 2017.

September extended the longest streak of hiring on record, with millions of Americans having gone back to work since the Great Recession.  Healthy consumer and business spending has been fueling brisk economic growth and emboldening employers to continue hiring. The September gain extended an 8½-year streak of monthly job growth.

Consumers, business executives and most economists remain optimistic. Measures of consumer confidence are at or near their highest levels in 18 years. Retailers have begun scrambling to hire enough workers for what’s expected to be a robust holiday shopping season. A survey of service-sector firms, including banks, hotels and health care providers, found that they are expanding at their fastest pace in a decade.

Americans have continued spending steadily and appear to be in generally stable financial shape. Households are saving nearly 7 percent of their incomes — more than twice the savings rate before the recession. That trend suggests that a brighter economic outlook hasn’t caused consumers to recklessly build up unsustainable debt.

During the April-June quarter, the U.S. economy expanded at a 4.2 percent annual rate, the best in four years. Economists have forecast that growth reached a 3 percent to 3.5 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter.

The economy does show some weak spots. Sales of existing homes have fallen over the past year. Increasingly expensive houses, higher mortgage rates and a shortage of properties for sale are slowing purchases. Auto sales have also slumped.

Other threats loom, too. Borrowing costs for businesses and consumers are rising. Pointing to the economy’s health, the Federal Reserve last week raised the short-term interest rate it controls and predicted that it would continue to tighten credit into 2020 to manage growth and inflation. Over time, higher borrowing costs make auto loans, mortgages and corporate debt more expensive and can eventually slow the economy.

But for now, anticipating stronger growth — and perhaps higher inflation — investors have dumped bonds and forced up their yields. The yield on the government’s 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for mortgages and other loans, has touched its highest level in seven years.

President Donald Trump’s trade fights could also weigh on the economy, though the effect on hiring won’t likely be felt until next year, economists say. The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum as well as on roughly half of China’s imports to the United Sates. Most U.S. businesses will try to absorb the higher costs themselves, at least for now, economists say, and avoid layoffs.

Still, should the tariffs remain fully in effect a year from now, roughly 300,000 jobs could be lost by then, according to estimates by Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

PHOTO CAPTION

In this June 21, 2018, file photo, job applicants talks with representatives from Aldi at a job fair hosted by Job News South Florida, in Sunrise, Florida. Friday, the  U.S. government said even though U.S. employers had added only 134,000 jobs in September, the unemployment rate hit a 49-year low at 3.7 percent. (Associated Press: LYNNE SLADKY)

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4 ex-Pilot Flying J workers get probation in fraud plot

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Headquartered in Knoxville, Pilot Flying J has more than 750 retail locations in 44 states, Roadside assistance available at over 135 locations nationwide and growing as part of its Truck Care program, 44 Goodyear Commercial Tire and Service Centers, and 34 Boss Shops.(Courtesy: PILOT FLYING J)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.  — Four former account representatives from nation’s largest fuel retailer will serve probation for their roles in a plot to cheat trucking companies.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports ex-Pilot Flying J employees Holly Radford, Lexie Holden, Janet Welch and Ashley Judd were sentenced Wednesday. They admitted to skewing the books to cover up the fraud prosecutors say was committed by their male bosses. Nearly 20 former workers were accused in the $56.5 million scheme.

The judge also ordered Radford, Welch and Judd to do community service. He exempted Holden because she works full-time and runs a business.

Prosecutors say the company lured trucking companies with discounts on fuel, then shortchanged them.

The Knoxville-based company is controlled by the family of Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and former Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.

Jimmy Haslam has long contended he knew nothing about the fraud scheme. Gov. Bill Haslam said he was not active in company affairs.

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ACT Research For-Hire Trucking Index: volumes up, but supply-demand balance loosens

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The January fleet purchase intentions reading indicated an uptick in equipment demand, with 53.7 percent of respondents planning to buy trucks in the next three months, up from 52.3 percent, seasonally adjusted, in December. (The Trucker file photo)

COLUMBUS, Ind. — The latest release of ACT’s For-Hire Trucking Index showed an improvement in freight volumes and truck productivity in January, after a soft finish to 2018. The Volume Index rose to 52.0 in January from 49.0 in December.

“The recovery in the Volume Index was offset by an increase in the Capacity Index in January, keeping the balance signal to the loose side,” said Tim Denoyer, ACT Research’s vice president and senior analyst. “The past three readings have shown the loosest industry supply-demand balance in almost three years, since April 2016.”

The Driver Index was in negative territory, below the neutral 50 mark, at 47.2 in January 2019. “Based on fleet feedback, we added a question about the driver market in January 2018, and after a year, we are now able to start reporting on this metric,” Denoyer said. “The January 2019 reading, as well as the December 2018 reading of 47.0 were up significantly from the 38.6 recorded in January of 2018. The index has been below the neutral 50 level since we started asking the question last year. However, the rise in the index over the past year signals modest easing of ongoing driver constraints.”

The January fleet purchase intentions reading indicated an uptick in equipment demand, with 53.7 percent of respondents planning to buy trucks in the next three months, up from 52.3 percent, seasonally adjusted, in December.

“After record orders last year, this series should remain elevated as long lead-time truck orders are built and hit the highways,” Denover said. “Over the past 12 months, the Buying Index has averaged a strong 57.6% reading.”

ACT is a publisher of new and used commercial vehicle (CV) industry data, market analysis and forecasting services for the North American market, as well as the U.S. tractor-trailer market and the China CV market.

For more information, visits www.actresearch.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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dexFreight initiates early adopters program

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By joining the Early Adopters Program, companies will have exclusive access to early release versions of the dexFreight platform. (Courtesy: DEXFREIGHT)

SUNRISE, Fla. — dexFreight, providers of a decentralized, blockchain-based logistics platform, has launched the dexFreight Early Adopters Program for U.S. shippers, carriers, brokers, and forwarders.

“The dexFreight platform built on blockchain technology allows supply chain stakeholders to transact and collaborate more efficiently, transparently and securely,” said Rajat Rajbhandari, CEO and co-founder of dexFreight. “Through our Early Adopters Program, we will be using the real-world expertise of logistics stakeholders to evaluate new and advanced features of our platform that will be launched in the near future. We don’t want to develop in a vacuum, and we believe the dialogue with and feedback from early adopters is vital in creating a platform that helps the entire logistics community.”

The dexFreight Early Adopters Program is open to U.S.-based companies. By joining the Early Adopters Program, companies will have exclusive access to early release versions of the dexFreight platform. As members of the Early Adopters community, they will have the opportunity to interact with dexFreight’s development and product teams.

Early Adopters Program participants will have free access to the platform’s basic features for three months and to advanced features at no charge when they first become available, and then at a discounted rate, Rajbhandari said. They will receive early notifications about new features before they are offered to all platform users.

Basic features of the dexFreight platform include TMS/FMS integration, load and capacity matching, safety data, rate negotiation, accessorial selection, P&D scheduling, shipment tracking, navigation and communication, and payments built on blockchain technology from the ground up.

Plans for the platform include escrow services, tokenized invoices, rate forecasting, on demand warehouse, load chaining, fleet optimization, bid preparation and risk prediction features, as well as third party apps.

In October 2018, dexFreight completed its first blockchain-based shipment using smart contracts. The platform, an ecosystem of open source protocols, blockchain and machine learning technologies, allowed the shipper and carrier to directly connect, negotiate rates, and schedule pickup and delivery.

For more information, visit www.dexfreight.io.

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