Total North American rail traffic came in at 694K cars last week, up slightly from 693k the prior week. The real key here is that traffic continues to holds above the 2010 highs and has done so for the last 9 weeks. Even more interesting is that we have yet to see a noticeable slide in the data going into the Thanksgiving Holiday week we would expect. Rather than sliding into next week’s expected large drop, the data just bounced around the 694k level.
This is good. Very good as it means demand is staying strong. As for the “what” is being moved, nothing stands out as seeing a dramatic dropoff that one might get concerned about. The only significant move was an upward one in Forest products, which might be a harbinger of increased construction activity upcoming.
As for temp staffing, the ASA Index is holding at 91. Since a 4th of July week low of 84, the index has made a steady climb through the fall to the current 91 level. That slope reflects what we are seeing in the Non-Farm Payroll reports (remember the lag is 3-4 months). The index data from here points to continued improvement in NFP through January (save for any holiday week anomalies). The NFP improvement will be steady yet unspectacular…..but it will be improvement nonetheless.