Demand for goods from US consumers and an easing of supply chain constraints led to an increase in imports in November, pushing the trade deficit close to a record.

Americans imported more consumer goods, vehicles and industrial supplies at the start of the holiday season, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

This trade momentum widened the US trade deficit in goods and services in November to $ 80.2 billion, the department added, with imports increasing 4.6% to $ 304.4 billion. Arrears at US ports showed signs of abating in the fall, helping to boost imports, while consumer spending was strong at the start of the holiday shopping season.

“It is the continued strength of retail spending in the United States that is one of the main drivers,” said Andrew Hunter, senior US economist at Capital Economics Ltd., referring to the strong demand for consumer goods. made abroad.

The easing of Covid-19 restrictions ahead of the Omicron variant surge and rebound in overseas demand have also started to benefit U.S. exports, especially energy and agricultural products. Demand for imports greatly exceeded US exports, resulting in a larger trade deficit.

After collapsing during the pandemic, global trade has exploded, pushing the US trade deficit to record levels as the pandemic continues. Strong demand coupled with transportation and delivery issues, such as shortages of port and warehouse workers, have crippled merchandise trade in recent months. But there are growing signs that supply chain disruptions are starting to dissipate.

The Institute for Supply Management said this week in its December manufacturing report that “supply chain performance is moving towards a more appropriate balance with demand.”

Factories in Europe and the United States have also reported further easing of supply chain issues and associated cost increases in late 2021, although the spread of Omicron around the world threatens to make the problems worse. labor and supply shortages.

Yet congestion at U.S. ports as well as supply chains scolded by the Covid-19 pandemic remain wild cards for businesses and consumers, economists say, with trade set to continue to be a challenge for businesses in the U.S. months to come.

“Inflation in input costs is at its highest level in 10 years and labor shortages and other issues are causing disruptions in our supply chain, from our suppliers to manufacturing to distribution, ”General Mills Inc. CEO Jeff Harmening said in a December 21 report of earnings. to call. “These disruptions lower service levels and drive costs beyond inflation across the industry,” added Harmening.

The California port of Los Angeles is struggling to cope with the influx of freight containers arriving at its terminals, creating one of the biggest bottlenecks in the global supply chain crisis. This exclusive aerial video illustrates the scale of the problem and the complexities of this process. Photo: Thomas C. Miller

Write to Harriet Torry at [email protected]

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