The Port of Los Angeles experienced its second consecutive monthly growth in cargo volume.
Cargo volumes at the Port of Los Angeles rose 5% year-over-year to 748,440 TEU in September, marking the second time in as many months volumes have increased compared to 2022 Imports saw a year-to-year increase of 14%, while exports surged by 55%. These remarks were made by Gene Seroka, the Executive Director of the Port of L.A., during his virtual monthly media news conference on October 23.
Guest speaker Matthew Shay, President and CEO of the National Retail Federation, highlighted consumer resilience and heightened financial vigilance, emphasizing that consumers are now meticulously tracking their spending. The economy, he noted, presents a unique challenge, as unemployment rates remain low, wages are rising, yet inflation continues to persist stubbornly.
Shay discussed a significant shift in consumer spending that occurred 18 months ago when inflation began to affect the market. As the coronavirus pandemic subsided, people shifted their spending from goods to services and experiences, such as vacations, dining out, and concerts. The National Retail Federation recently released its holiday spending forecasts for this year, with households expected to spend an average of $875 on the holidays, with the majority, $620, allocated to goods, and the remaining $255 on decorations, food, and other holiday-related expenses.
Shay expressed the uncertainty in the marketplace, stating that this economy is unlike anything seen before. He and Seroka acknowledged that the peak season, usually occurring in late summer and early fall, arrived early in August and was relatively weak this year. Warehouses still being filled with goods contributed to this trend.
The positive news is that supplies and inventory are well-stocked this year, and retailers are prepared for the holiday season and beyond. Seroka noted that this year's peak season was more modest than usual and primarily ended in August.
When asked about the challenges facing U.S. retailers, Shay listed several issues, with political gridlock in Congress at the forefront, followed by concerns about ongoing global conflicts and rising retail crime.
The Port of Long Beach announced positive news as it marked its most active September on record, achieving an 11.8% year-on-year increase in cargo volume to reach 829,429 TEU, thus surpassing the previous September's record of 78,849 TEU. It's important to note that this represents the first monthly year-on-year rise in cargo in 14 months.
Imports saw a significant uptick, rising by 19.3% to reach 408,926 TEU, whereas exports experienced a decline of 10.3% to 101,248 TEU. Additionally, empty containers rose by 11.5% to 319,255 TEU.
Mario Cordero, CEO of the Port of Long Beach, stated, "With consumer confidence on the rise and a ratified contract with our waterfront workforce in place, shippers can now rely on the port of their choice. We anticipate a gradual recovery in cargo volume for the remainder of the year."
On June 14, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association reached a preliminary agreement, which was subsequently approved by ILWU dockworkers on August 31.
Despite the overall cargo volume for the first nine months of 2023 registering at 5,822,666 TEU, indicating a 20.7% decrease compared to the same period last year, it's important to note that this year's cargo volume has returned to pre-pandemic levels. In September 2019, the port handled over 5.7 million TEU.