Wednesday, March 18, 2015

LA area Port Traffic Declined Sharply in February due to Labor Issues

by Bill McBride on 3/18/2015 11:55:00 AM

Note: LA area ports were impacted by labor negotiations that were settled on February 21st.

Container traffic gives us an idea about the volume of goods being exported and imported - and usually some hints about the trade report for February since LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation's container port traffic.

The following graphs are for inbound and outbound traffic at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in TEUs (TEUs: 20-foot equivalent units or 20-foot-long cargo container).

To remove the strong seasonal component for inbound traffic, the first graph shows the rolling 12 month average.

LA Area Port TrafficClick on graph for larger image.

On a rolling 12 month basis, inbound traffic was down 1.3% compared to the rolling 12 months ending in January.   Outbound traffic was down 1.4% compared to 12 months ending in January.

Inbound traffic had been increasing, and outbound traffic had been mostly moving sideways or slightly down.  The recent downturn was due to labor issues.

The 2nd graph is the monthly data (with a strong seasonal pattern for imports).

LA Area Port TrafficUsually imports peak in the July to October period as retailers import goods for the Christmas holiday, and then decline sharply and bottom in February or March (depending on the timing of the Chinese New Year).

Imports were down 18% year-over-year in February, exports were down 17% year-over-year.

The labor issues are now resolved - the ships are rapidly disappearing from the outer harbor - and I expect port traffic will be at record levels for March (catching up).