Ports to reach busiest month on record

The number of cargo units coming into the U.S. is expected to reach a record high.

August is expected to be the busiest month on record for imports. The nation's major retail container ports are on track to set a new annual high this year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Hackett Associates.

The news comes as no surprise, as retail sales continue to show year-over-year increases almost every month, meaning supply chains are working to keep up with these demands. Jonathan Gold, VP for supply chain and customs policy at NRF, says that the latest numbers are a good sign of what retailers can expect through the holidays. 

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In June, ports handled 1.69 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU), up 7.5% from June 2016. July was estimated at 1.72 million TEU, up 5.6% from the same month last year, and August is forecasted at 1.75 million TEU, up 2.1% from last year. If those numbers prove accurate, this would be the highest monthly volume recorded since NRF began tracking imports in 2000. 

If all of the predictions hold true, 2017 would see a total of 19.7 million TEU in the nation's ports, topping last year's record of 18.8 million TEU. The rise would be 4.9%, compared with the 3.1% rise in 2016 over 2015. 

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Retail sales have increased year-over-year in all but three months since the beginning of 2010. And despite short-term fluctuations, jobs have increased by 1.5 million since 2010. 

Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates, says that U.S. gross domestic product grew 2.6% in the second quarter, more than double the 1.2% seen in the first quarter. 

“This relatively strong growth underlies the robust level of imports we have forecast and witnessed,” Hackett said.