According to the latest McCown report, import container throughput fell 5.5% in September. This is a decline not seen since the early stages of the pandemic and is larger than the 0.3% seen in the previous month July and 0.6% in August.
"West Coast ports led to that overall decline with a drop of 17.0%, which is one of the steepest declines in years," the report said. Before that, the decline was 11.5% in August and 5.1% in July.
While port congestion figures continue to improve, the East Coast shift for US imports has increased. Output increased 6.6% for East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, led by New York and Houston ports. The report said concerns about labor unrest on the West Coast could be to blame for the shift to the East Coast.
September marked the 16th consecutive month where East and Gulf ports outperformed West Coast ports in growth rates. Los Angeles was the weakest port in September, down 26.3 percent year-over-year. Houston, Charleston and New York were the fastest growing ports.
“Given signs of slowing output, the final quarter of 2022 is likely to show lower import volumes than the previous quarter,” the report said.
While this report does not address the underlying causes of the drop in container throughput, other market reports have pointed to inflation in advanced economies and low consumer confidence as negative factors polarity with respect to container volume. For the United States in particular, many reports cited high retailers' inventories as another reason for the drop in output.