The one sour note sounded by recent economic reports was unemployment. Though the unemployment rate dropped to 6.1% in August, the Labor Department reported the manufacturing sector lost 44,000 jobs. The drop in unemployment (down from 6.2 % in July and 6.4% in June) was ascribed to more discouraged workers leaving the work force.
Factory orders rose for the third straight month, up 1.6% in July vs. an expected rise of 0.8%. This translates into more demand for transportation services. That fact was reflected in the American Trucking Associations' truck tonnage figures which show truck tonnage up 3.7% in the first seven months of 2003 vs. the prior year.
Trucks hauled 8.9 billion tons of freight in 2002, according to the ATA, 67.9% of all tonnage carried by all domestic freight transportation modes.