Note: There were some large swings in LA area port traffic early last year due to labor issues that were settled in late February 2015. Port traffic slowed in January and February last year, and then surged in March 2015 as the waiting ships were unloaded (the trade deficit increased in March too). This has impacted the YoY changes for the first few months of 2016.
Container traffic gives us an idea about the volume of goods being exported and imported – and usually some hints about the trade report since LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation’s container port traffic.
To remove the strong seasonal component for inbound traffic, the first graph shows the rolling 12 month average.
On a rolling 12 month basis, inbound traffic was down 3.1% compared to the rolling 12 months ending in February. Outbound traffic was up 0.4% compared to 12 months ending in February.
The downturn in exports over the last year was probably due to the slowdown in China and the stronger dollar.
The 2nd graph is the monthly data (with a strong seasonal pattern for imports).
Usually 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 sharply year-over-year in March, but last year imports surged after the labor issues were resolved. So the year-over-year data was negatively impacted.