Coronavirus impact on US imports easing, NRF says
The impact of COVID-19 at major US retail container ports appears to be easing slightly, with projected imports remaining below last year’s levels but not as much as previously forecast, according to a new report issued by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.
“The numbers we’re seeing are still below last year, but are better than what we expected a month ago,” Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, noted.
“It may still be too soon to say but we’ll take that as a sign that the situation could be slowly starting to improve. Consumers want to get back to shopping, and as more people get back to work, retailers want to be sure their shelves are stocked,” he added.
“Imports are erratic, with one month up and the next down,” Ben Hackett, Hackett Associates Founder, said.
“Getting 40 million people back to work will take time, especially with many fearful of catching the virus and staying home. That makes a rapid return to an economic boom unlikely,” Hackett explained.
US ports covered by the report handled 1.61 million TEUs in April, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 7.8 per cent from a year earlier, but up 17 per cent from a five-year low seen in March and significantly better than the 1.51 million TEU previously expected.
May was estimated at 1.58 million TEU, down 14.6 per cent year-over-year, but up from the 1.47 million TEU forecast a month ago.
Imports for the six-month period from April through September are expected to total 9.74 million TEU, a 3 per cent improvement from the 9.46 million TEU expected a month ago.
The first half of 2020 is forecast to total 9.46 million TEU, down 10 per cent from the same period last year but better than the 9.15 million TEU expected a month ago. Before the extent of the pandemic was known, the first half of the year was forecast at 10.47 million TEU.
Imports during 2019 totaled 21.6 million TEU, a 0.8 per cent decrease from 2018 amid the trade war with China but still the second-highest year on record.
The Global Port Tracker report provides historical data and forecasts for the ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Port of Virginia, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades, Miami and Jacksonville on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.