Below are highlights from the recently released trade data from the US Census Bureau and US Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The September data saw an expansion in exports in both nominal and real terms, while imports slowed as companies sought to correct prior overstocking of inventories and as consumer spending shifted to services rather than goods. Total trade through the state’s ports was up only 3.9% over the year in nominal terms, representing a contraction in real terms, but still showed elevated levels compared to the pre-pandemic period, with total trade up 18.0% in nominal terms compared to September 2019. Compared to pre-pandemic levels in September 2019, exports were up 13% in nominal terms—largely unchanged in real terms—while imports were up 22.7%.
As measured by the New York Federal Reserve Global Supply Chain Pressure Index, supply congestion continued easing globally in recent months but still remained somewhat elevated from prior periods. Continued easing is likely, but will come more from expected slowing in economic conditions and continued disruptions from lockdowns in China rather than structural and process improvements to goods movement infrastructure.
Source: New York Federal Reserve
Within California, congestion of the San Pedro Bay ports is down substantially in line with the easing of total trade traffic. The latest report for November 3 cites 22 vessels at anchor or loitering, of which only one is a container ship. The situation in the coming months, however, remains highly uncertain. The West Coast port labor talks remain stalled and still harbor the risk of labor actions affecting the movement of goods. More broadly, the railroad labor settlement previously brokered by the White House continues to unravel as more unions vote to reject the terms.