- Job openings fall for the second straight month.
- The ISM manufacturing index declines slightly.
- Non-durable manufacturing orders ease 0.4%.
- Diesel prices fall for the ninth straight week.
- New trucking firms barely exceed carrier failures.
- Van segments’ spot rates fall in the latest week.
- Intermodal volume holds nearly steady.
- Carload volume is stable near five-year average.
- DOJ sues Norfolk Southern over Ohio derailment.
The limited set of economic indicators released this week showed a continued mild deceleration of the economy but nothing that indicates a major concern for freight demand in the near term – at least not any more than we had already seen.
Meanwhile, no news is good news on the banking front as no further major troubles have been revealed. After small banks saw a big loss of deposits during the week ended March 15, deposits were very stable during the week ended March 22.
Job openings and quits
Job openings in the economy fell 6% for the second straight month in February, bringing the number of unfilled positions at the end of the month to 9.9 million, seasonally adjusted.
While still extraordinarily high historically, job openings were below 10 million for the first time since May 2021. Openings are still 42% above February 2020, however.
Job quits rose 3.8% – the most since August – after falling 5.2% in January. Quits are about 15% higher than in February 2020.
ISM manufacturing index
The ISM manufacturing index in March declined by 1.4 points to 46.3, which is the lowest level since May 2020 when the index stood at 43.5. The index has been in contraction territory since November. The new orders index declined 2.7 points to 44.3. Production ticked up 0.5-point to 47.8. None of the factors that underly the index are above 50, which is the threshold between expansion and contraction.
New orders for non-durable manufactured goods declined 0.4%, seasonally adjusted, in February. As reported previously, new orders for durable manufactured goods fell 0.6%, although durable goods orders excluding transportation equipment were flat compared to January.
The largest declines in new non-durable orders were in leather and allied products and in petroleum refineries. Because the Census Bureau data is not adjusted for pricing, petroleum products often are among the largest movers in either direction.
Diesel and petroleum prices
The national average price of diesel fell 2.3 cents to $4.105 a gallon during the week ended April 3. Diesel prices have fallen just under 52 cents in nine straight weeks of decreases. Prices were down in all regions except the Gulf Coast, where prices were up a half-cent on average.
The latest average diesel price is just a tenth of a cent higher than it was at the end of February 2022 just before the unprecedented two-week, $1.15 surge in the first two weeks of March. Diesel in the latest week was $1.04 below the same week last year.
Diesel prices could see some firming soon. Crude prices have risen in recent days. In mid-March, West Texas Intermediate closed at its lowest price since December 2021. Since then, prices have risen to above $80 a barrel.