United States-bound imports saw another month of growth in September, according to data recently issued by global trade intelligence firm Panjiva.
Total September U.S-bound containerized freight imports—at 2,864,980 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units)—was up 5.1% annually, which was down from August’s 11.2% annual increase. And September shipments posted a 17.4% annual gain compared to September 2019. Imports were up 4.4%, from July to August—trending down from July’s 14.3% annual spread. Despite the slowing of annual growth percentage, August’s TEU tally represented the second highest month on record, for U.S. shipments, with March 2021’s the highest, at 3,028,143 TEU.
Panjiva explained that the annual comparisons, to 2020, are now against a post-pandemic surge, as opposed to what it called lockdown lows, adding that September’s shipment tally upped the third quarter growth rate to 10.2% annually and up 15.3% compared to the third quarter of 2019.
“There was an average of 95,341 TEU per day in the quarter, and if imports remain at the average Q3 level, Q4 would show a 4.7% year over year growth rate, exceeding the record breaking 2020 holiday season,” observed Panjiva. “Importers may be hoping that more surge capacity remains untapped, however, as increased imports would likely alleviate some of the pressured facing industries that rely on strong holiday sales.”
On the product side, for September, Panjiva reported the following import numbers on an annual basis:
For origin locations, Panjiva reported that U.S.-bound imports out of China were up 8.3% annually, with shipments from Asia, excluding China, were down 15.2%, and shipments from Europe down 14.6%.
Panjiva Research Director Eric Oak said in an interview that when monthly import levels are viewed against 2020, they are no longer up against what he called an exceptionally low period, and, instead, they are against an exceptionally high period.
“It is now against a different outlier, which is the import surge after the depths of the pandemic,” he said. “But we are still higher than that, with September up 5.1%, against September 2020, which was near record territory at the time. Imports are still up and still surging into the country as fast as they can as we all are seeing in logistics. Disruptions and congestion remain intact across multiple ports. Goods are coming into the U.S., and the question we are going to find out, as we get further into October and November, is whether it is going to be fast enough for retailers to meet the insatiable appetite of consumer demand.”