Economy shows a pulse

July 13, 2011, 7:08 PM UTC

The economy certainly isn’t rolling, but it also isn’t rolling over just yet.

That’s the message out of the latest reading of the Pulse of Commerce Index published by UCLA and data company Ceridian. The PCI, which tracks U.S. diesel fuel use and offers a view into industrial output via trucking mileage, rose 1% in June on a seasonally adjusted basis (see chart, right).

Not setting any records

The rise breaks a two-month decline in the index, though it is hard to get excited given all the glum news about the economy. Unemployment last month ticked up to 9.2% and the trade gap has been widening again, showing the global imbalances that Tim Geithner et al. have been railing about for years aren’t going anywhere fast.

“There’s no getting around the fact that this is a disappointing trend,” said UCLA economist Ed Leamer, who oversees the index. “The first half was hit by the oil price, so that’s probably not going to get worse this year, but you don’t really have a lot of signs of improvement.”

June’s rise is just the second monthly rise in the PCI this year. Though the three-month moving average of the seasonally adjusted index has risen 10% since hitting its postcrash low in mid-2009, it remains 4% below its bubble era high and is no longer closing ground on the pre-Lehman Brothers growth pace.

But lately it seems that every day we avoid utter collapse counts as a sort of moral victory, so for now we can chalk up June’s PCI in the win column.