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Uneven Signs of Growth in the Transport Industry

A look at some industries in the United States shows that the economic recovery is uneven. And growth seems to be slowing down. We spoke with experts in the transportation industry, which is easily affected by economic changes. Economists say trucks carry nearly 70 percent of the freight, or goods, transported in the United States.

The American Trucking Association represents the interests of the trucking industry. It says freight is a good measure of the economy. This is because businesses have to move unprocessed materials, carry parts to factories, and transport imports and exports.

Bob Costello is the chief economist for the group. He says the trucking industry is a leading economic indicator. That means that it helps signal what will happen in the economy. He says it is a good sign if the amount of goods carried by trucks increases.And the amount of freight carried by trucks is going up slowly.

The American Trucking Association says total freight tonnage increased in June, but remained unchanged in July. That is good news to Bob Costello. He says it tells him that the economy is not falling into another recession. Other information about economic growth comes from air freight, or goods transported by air.

Recent reports show demand for air freight fell more than three percent around the world during July. Perry Flint is with the International Air Transport Association. That group represents about two hundred forty airline companies worldwide. It gathers information about air passenger travel and air freight.

It says international air freight decreased in July from the same period the year before. But other signs show increases. The same report shows that passenger traffic increased over three percent from last year. That may be why a top official of Cambria Suites Hotels says all travel, not just business travel, is strong. Michael Murphy says, "We are seeing the highest demand in the history of the hotel industry right now." Conflicting economic signs have made it difficult for economists to predict future growth.

For example, government experts first said the American economy expanded at a yearly rate of 1.5 percent from April to June.But they amended that value as new information became available and showed growth was higher -- more likely a rate of 1.7 percent. Changes like that have made it harder for many people to see the road ahead.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 07Sep2012)