Still no easy answers when it comes to the economy

Waiting for me in my ridiculously crowded inbox this morning was an e-mail from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, which informed me that economic activity—i.e. the Gross Domestic Product—in the third quarter grew at a rate of 2 percent.

By ·

Waiting for me in my ridiculously crowded inbox this morning was an e-mail from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, which informed me that economic activity—i.e. the Gross Domestic Product—in the third quarter grew at a rate of 2 percent.

While this figure is certain not to get anyone excited about the pace of the economic recovery we all hear about, it is not altogether terrible either. Why? Well, the optimist in me says that it is at least better than the 1.7 percent GDP we saw in the second quarter. But the pessimist in me sees that it is down from the first quarter’s 3.7 percent clip.

As you can see by these numbers, things are moving along on the economic side, albeit very, very slowly. And we are seeing this case of economic stops and starts on the freight side, too.

A few economic indicators we look at tell that story pretty clearly. These things include; the American Trucking Associations monthly truck tonnage data, which saw slight sequential growth in September on a seasonally-adjusted basis; strong but declining West Coast Port TEU tallies; and steady and occasionally very impressive weekly carload and intermodal volumes released by the Association of American Railroads.

One thing these types of freight/economic indicators all have in common is that when it comes to seeing consistent and meaningful economic growth, there are no easy answers. Not exactly news, I know, but it is truly the elephant in the corner, it seems.

There simply is no getting around the fact that the economy is still in a rough place. Are things better than a year ago? Yes. But, still, more needs to happen.

That is where the holiday shopping season comes in. Talk about the biggest and most timely (and ubiquitous) economic indicator there is. I am cautiously expecting malls to get more crowded every time I go to one between now and the end of December. Yes, there is the obvious seasonality factor that comes with that thought. But seeing how busy—and how well prepared— retailers are for whatever happens will be quite telling, even though overall expectations are, understandably, relatively low for obvious reasons (see high unemployment rate at the top of the list).

That much was made obvious by the National Retail Federation’s recent 2.3 percent year-over-year growth forecast for this year’s holiday shopping season.

In any event, the economy continues to zig and zag, leaving us, as per the usual at this point, with more questions than answers. Stay tuned for a lot more uncertainty as we all try to navigate this storm.


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
Lead your organization through the driver shortage and over-the-road regulations.
Potential transportation disruptions are looming as increased over-the-road regulations are set to go into effect in 2017. Experts believe these regulations will further impact the already challenged driver pool as well as reduce driver productivity.
Download Today!
From the January 2017 Issue
Following LM tradition, we start off the New Year with our annual “Rate Outlook” cover story and subsequent Webcast
Moore on Pricing: The other TMS functional options
2017 Rate Outlook: Where are freight transportation rates headed?
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
2017 Rate Outlook: Where are freight transportation rates headed?
Join our panel of top oil and transportation analysts for an exclusive look at where rates are headed and the issues driving those rate increases over the coming year.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
2017 Rate Outlook: Will the pieces fall into place?
Trade and transport analysts see a turnaround in last year’s negative market outlook, but as...
Logistics Management’s Top Logistics News Stories 2016
From mergers and acquisitions to regulation changes, Logistics Management has compiled the most...

Making the TMS Decision: Ariens Finds Just the Right Fit
The third time is the charm for this U.S. manufacturer on the hunt for a third-party logistics (3PL)...
Motor Carrier Regulations Update: Caught in a Trap
The fed is hitting truckers with a barrage of costly regulations in an era of scant profits....