Port of Los Angeles officials announced today that the port closed out a soft first quarter, seeing a decline of approximately 32% compared to 2022, when the port experienced the best first quarter in its history.

Executive Director Gene Seroka said the port processed 623,234 20-foot equivalent units—the standard measure of a shipping container—in March, a 28% increase in volume compared to February.

March imports landed just under 320,000 TEUs, roughly 35% less than last year, exports finished just above 98,000 TEUs, a 12% year-on-year decline, and the port handled just under 205,000 empties, nearly a 42% decline compared to March 2022.

For the first three months of 2023, the port handled 1,837,094 TEUs.

“Economic conditions slowed global trade considerably in the first quarter; however, we are beginning to see some signs of improvement, including nine consecutive months of inflation declines,” Seroka said Wednesday. “While March cargo volume was lower than last year at this time, early data and monthly growth indicates a moderate increase in Q3.”
The port’s average first-quarter volume over the past five years has decreased more than 19%, which Seroka described as a “disappointing trend” that needs to be reversed. Port officials attributed the decline in cargo volume to widespread concern over labor negotiations, holidays, inflation and market uncertainties.

“Our numbers reflect a complex mix of both micro and macro economic undercurrents, still I continue to believe there are bright skies ahead as these factors ease in the coming months,” Seroka said.

Officials expect gradual growth for April with preliminary data indicating the port will process approximately 700,000 TEUs. In the following months, the port is expecting to see a traditional peak shipping season with a moderate uptick in the third quarter.