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U.S. Container Freight Volumes Fall As Manufacturing Contracts

U.S. container volumes at the largest U.S. ports decreased by 3.8% in September compared to September 2021, another sign of a slowdown in overall trade.

Most container ocean freight circulation in the United States is at the ports of New York-New Jersey, Houston, Savannah, Charleston, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Norfolk, Seattle, and Oakland. For these ports, total loaded container volume was 2.67 million TEUs this September, compared to 2.77 million TEUs in September 2021 and 2.85 million TEUs in September 2020.

The authorities in charge of these ports blame fewer orders from manufacturers and retailers, no surprise since there were excess inventories and a supply glut post-Covid.

Railroads saw similar trends, too, further confirming a slowdown.

On railroads, container volume was 1.09 million TEUs in September 2022, compared to 1.14 million TEUs last September, and 1.22 million TEUs in September 2020. It is well known that the railroads across the U.S. experienced challenges earlier this year with even a nationwide strike being in the realm of possibility. That strike was called off after the unions negotiated with U.S. President Biden.

Another factor driving the slowdown is a shift from goods to services, which has been felt across container yards as many issues such as empty containers idling, ship backups on the U.S. East and West Coasts, etc. have disappeared. Government action may have also played a role.

It’s still too early to know whether or not the U.S. faces any kind of recession.

Europe is already experiencing a mild recession, led mostly by energy shortages and other issues. China has seen manufacturing decline. Only time will tell if similar issues come to the U.S., but early signs are there of the overall manufacturing/trade slowdown.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I think we all said what could be worse than that virus. Now, we will all face more troublesome difficulties in the not-too-distant future.

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