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Consumer Demand Affected With Millions Of Americans Out Of Work: NRF

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Major U.S. retail container ports are estimated to report a five-year low for imports in March as consumer demand has been impacted with millions of Americans out of work amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, according to a report by the National Retail Federation or NRF.

The Global Port Tracker report, released by the world's largest retail trade association along with Hackett Associates, reveals that U.S. ports are now expected to handle 1.27 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units or TEU in March, down 21.3 percent from the previous year. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.

This is the lowest level seen since 1.21 million TEU in February 2015 during a labor dispute that caused slowdowns at West Coast ports that winter.

NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said though factories in China have resumed working, far fewer imports are coming into the United States than previously expected.

In February 2020, the actual imports handled were at 1.51 million TEU, down 6.8 percent from February 2019. February numbers are normally lower because of annual factory shutdowns in China for Lunar New Year celebrations.

Imports in April are now expected to be at 1.44 million TEU, down 17.6 percent year-over-year, and it is forecast to be at 1.48 million TEU in May, down 20.1 percent from last year.

Prior to the coronavirus impact, imports for February through May had been forecast at a total of 6.9 million TEU, but it is now expected to total 5.7 million TEU, a drop of 17.3 percent.

Imports in June are now projected to decline 21.4 percent to 1.41 million TEU, July imports to drop 18.2 percent to 1.61 million TEU and August imports estimated to be down 12.5 percent at 1.72 million TEU from last year.

Imports in the first half of 2020 were previously forecast to total 10.47 million TEU before the pandemic, but now it is estimated to be only 8.93 million TEU, down 15.1 percent from the same period last year. Imports during 2019 totaled 21.6 million TEU, a 0.8 percent decrease from 2018.

The tracker shows that imports are projected to remain significantly below normal levels through early summer as the coronavirus pandemic continues. The uncertainty about the length of the lockdown and extent of the pandemic also continues.

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