The U.S. economy posted negative growth in the first quarter for the first time since the first quarter of 2011.
The Commerce Department on Thursday said Gross Domestic Product fell 1 percent in the first three months of the year. The figure was revised from the initial estimate of 0.1-percent growth as more data came in.
Most analysts aren't worried about the news, chalking it up to the unusually harsh winter that slowed retail traffic and other commercial activity, as well as a slowdown in inventory buildup. Consensus opinion among economists is for about 4-percent GDP in the second quarter, as pent up demand makes up for the first quarter stall.
The government said one of the drags on growth was exports, which decreased 6 percent in the first quarter, compared to a 9.5-percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2013. Real imports of goods and services increased 0.7 percent, compared with an increase of 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter. Imports, however, count against GDP because they represent spending on goods and services not produced domestically.
Freight transportation providers stand to benefit from improved weather and economic activity, and initial trucking data for April suggests the economy could be rebounding already.
The American Trucking Associations this week reported that its seasonally adjusted truck tonnage index increased 1.5 percent in April, after rising 0.6 percent in March. Compared with April 2013, the index jumped 4.8 percent, the largest year-over-year gain of 2014. Year-to-date tonnage is up 2.9 percent versus 2013, according to the survey of ATA members.
April represented the third straight gain in tonnage. Tonnage is off 1.4 percent from the all-time high in November.
"I'm pleased that tonnage has been making solid progress after falling a total of 5.2 percent in December and January," ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said in a statement. "And April's nice gain was better than the contraction in industrial production and the lackluster retail sales during the same month."