Cargo container traffic slowed at the Port of Long Beach in April, port officials announced Friday, citing reduced consumer demand and shifting trade routes from the West Coast to seaports on the East and Gulf coasts.

Dockworkers and terminal operators moved 656,049 twenty-foot equivalent units last month, down 20.1% from April 2022, which was one of the port’s busiest months on record. Imports declined 21.8% to 313,444 TEU while exports increased slightly, just 0.6%, about 122,663 TEUs.

Empty containers moved through the port decreased by 26.2%, or 219,943 TEUs.

In March, cargo volumes at the Port of Long Beach decreased by almost one-third compared to the same month last year.

Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said in a statement that increased demand that was seen during the height of the coronavirus pandemic has diminished and cargo flows are now closer to pre-pandemic levels.

“We expect slow growth in the second half of 2023, as retailers continue to clear surplus inventory from their warehouses,” Cordero said.

Sharon Weissman, president of the Long Beach Harbor Commission, expressed that the port’s facilities, dockworkers, marine terminal operators and staff continue to make the port a “premier gateway” for trans-Pacific goods movement.

“We do expect cargo volumes to rebound eventually as shippers seek out the top-notch customer service of the `port of choice’,” Weissman said in a statement.

Economists say consumer spending has softened since the start of the year, while the Federal Reserve’s interest rate adjustments have slowed inflation as well.

The port has moved 2,377,375 TEUs during the first four months of 2023, down 27.5% from the same period in 2022, port officials said.