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The amount of diesel fuel bought using credit cards at U.S. truck stops increased in March to the highest level in more than a year, indicating the recovery is broadening beyond manufacturing.
The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index, which measures fuel consumption, rose 1 percent last month to reach the highest level since September 2008. The gauge has increased every month since November with the exception of February, when East Coast blizzards hampered travel.
Truck tonnage, which accounts for 68 percent of freight transported in the U.S., increased on a year-over-year basis in February for a third straight month, a separate report from the American Trucking Associations showed. Companies such as Con-Way Inc. are benefiting from inventory rebuilding, increased exports and stronger sales.
Separate data from the Labor Department shows that the number of trucking jobs in the U.S. has increased in three of the last five months. Truck transportation companies added 1,000 workers in March.
Edward Leamer, chief economist for the Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index, said the report points to an economy that may have grown at a 4 percent annual rate in the first quarter. Such a pace is consistent with job gains, though not enough to help bring down the unemployment rate.
"I call it a frugal recovery," Leamer said.
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