Imports to US reach consecutive record highs
Imports to US ports set a second all-time monthly record high this summer as retailers brought in merchandise for the busy holiday season, and are continuing at unusually high levels this month.
That’ according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report that has been released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
“When imports break records two months in a row, it’s hard to see that as anything other than a good sign about what retailers expect in consumer demand,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said.
“Consumers are buying more, and everybody from dockworkers to truck drivers is trying to keep up. We hope this is a sign of a strong holiday season for retailers, shoppers and our nation’s economy.”
Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.8mn Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in August, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available.
The volume was the highest recorded since NRF began tracking imports in 2000, topping the previous record of 1.78mn TEU set just one month earlier in July.
The record before that had been 1.73mn TEU in March 2015. August was up 1.4% over July and 5.6% over August 2016. A TEU is one 20-foot-long cargo container or its equivalent.
September was estimated at 1.65mn TEU, up 3.7% from last year, and October is forecast at 1.72mn TEU, up 2.8%. While not a record, the October number would be one of only six times in the report’s history that any month has hit 1.7mn TEU or higher.
November is forecast at 1.62mn TEU, down 1.7% from last year, and December is forecast at 1.59mn TEU, up 1.3%.
Growth has slowed from the first half of the year but 2017 is expected to total 19.8mn TEU, topping last year’s previous record of 18.8mn TEU by 5.4%. That compares with 2016’s 3.1% increase over 2015. The first half of 2017 totalled 9.7mn TEU, up 7.5% from the same period in 2016.
January 2018 is forecast at 1.64mn TEU, down 2% from January 2017, and February is forecast at 1.58mn TEU, up 10% from the same month in 2017.
The import numbers come as NRF is forecasting that 2017 retail sales will grow between 3.2 and 3.8% over 2016 and that this year’s holiday sales will grow between 3.6 and 4%.
Cargo volume does not correlate directly with sales because only the number of containers is counted, not the value of the cargo inside, but nonetheless provides a barometer of retailers’ expectations.
“The volume of containers imported through August continues to grow and we expect this to continue through October before a slack period arrives as the holiday season inventory build-up comes to an end,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said.
“We do expect growth in imports to slacken off in the coming year, but it will still remain positive.”
ASCM: Supply chain pay gap closes in under 40s
The pay gap between men and women working in supply chain under the age of 40 has finally reached parity, according to the Association for Supply Chain Management’s latest annual Supply Chain Salary and Career Report.
The gender pay gap in this age group had been narrowing over the past two years, the ASCM’s previous surveys show, and in 2021 has closed entirely. Women report a median salary of $81,000 annually, while men earn a median annual salary of $79,000. Across all age brackets, men report a median salary of $82,000 and women $80,000.
Other highlights from the ASCM report
- 95% of supply chain professionals kept their job through the pandemic
- The typical starting salary for a supply chain professional is $60,000
- 48% of supply chain professionals now work from home
- 88% of survey respondents find supply chain a fulfilling career path
But there is still work to be done in closing the divide in those over the age of 40. Older men are still earning far more than their female peers, with a discrepancy of between $12,000 and $23,000 annually. ASCM’s report does not definitively conclude why this disparity remains, but says women who began their careers several decades ago may have started out on lower salaries. They may also have missed out on steady wage increases and career development after taking time away from work to have and raise families.
It is also likely that the pay gap in over 40s is affected by a lack of women in executive leadership positions. A recent Gartner study found that, while women now represent 41% of the supply chain workforce - a five year high - only 15% of executive level positions are held by women. That figure is a decline of two per cent on 2020.
Supply chain’s racial pay gap remains
For the first time, ASCM’s annual survey also looked into the pay gap between ethnicities, finding that the median salary for black professionals was 12% less than their white peers, and Latinos earned on average 14% less. That represents a divide of between $9,000 and &10,000 in real terms. Asian professionals earned a median salary of $80,000, compared with the $83,000 for white professionals.
Abe Eshkenazi, the ASCM chief executive, said reporting on and acknowledging lingering wage disparity was not enough: “Supply chain organisations must lead the way by creating environment where diverse talent is valued, included and developed. The need for supply chain professionals has never been greater, so now is the time to expand the aperture to include diversity of thought, influence and input — particularly for women and people of colour.”
Read the full report: ASCM 2021 Supply Chain Salary and Career Report