A new index that measures economic activity by tracking diesel fuel purchases by the nation's over-the-road truck drivers has contributed to the mounting body of evidence that the economy is in steady recovery.
The Ceridian-UCLA Pulse of Commerce Index (PCI), published by the University of California, Los Angeles Anderson School of Management, analyzes data from fuel credit cards swiped by drivers as they fill their rigs. The index, which launched in February, is built through capturing and analyzing the location and volume of fuel being purchased. UCLA and Ceridian, the company that tracks the consumption data in real time, believe the index paints an accurate picture of product movement across the United States and thus, provides a clear window on overall economic performance.
After a weak showing in February, when heavy snowstorms struck the U.S. East Coast, the index rebounded in March to post a 1-percent gain, the PCI found. The March data indicates a steadily recovering economy, with first-quarter GDP growth expected to reach 4 percent or higher, according to the analysis.
The PCI data had predicted that the nation's industrial production in March would show growth of 0.5 percent when the Federal Reserve released that number on April 15. The March industrial production number actually came in at a higher 0.9 percent, according to the Fed report.
"The good news in March is that the economy is still recovering at a pace that should support job growth, although unfortunately not at a pace that will drive rapid improvement in the unemployment rate. GDP needs to grow at a 5- to 6-percent rate to drive meaningful change in unemployment," said Ed Leamer, chief economist for the PCI, in a statement.