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Supply Chain by the Numbers

- Jan. 21, 2021

  Supply Chain by the Numbers for Jan. 21, 2021

Amazon FC in Alabama Might Vote to Unionize; US Truckload Rates Headed back Up; US Manufacturing Continues Slow Recovery; Rolled Ocean Containers Hit Record High



That's about how many Amazon fulfillment center workers in Besseemer, Alabama will vote next month on whether to unionize. If they vote in favor of organizing, it would mark the first time a US Amazon FC will have a union. The National Labor Relations Board has scheduled the vote by mail because of coronavirus concerns. It will begin Feb. 8 and continue through March 29, and offer users the chance to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Interestingly, both the union and Amazon agreed that hundreds of seasonal workers should be eligible to cast ballots. Unions are well represented in Amazon FCs in Europe, but the company has successfully fought off labor organizing efforts in the US. The last vote on unionization at an Amazon facility in the US was in 2014, when a small number of maintenance technicians at a Delaware FC rejected joining the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. A Yes vote could easily spur renewed organizing efforts at other US FCs.




That was the December rise in the Cass Linehaul Index, which measures US contract truckload rates per mile before fuel surcharges and any other assessorial charges, according to data released this week. That after the first year-over-year increase rates in fifteen months in November, which saw a 0.6% rise. The Cass Shipments Index, combining multiple modes, was up a strong 6.7% in December, accelerating sharply from a.2.7% rise the month before. However, the Shipments Index is still well below recent peak levels seen in mid-2018. But freight expenditures in December were up even more, rising 13.0% year-over-year. With expenditure growth almost doubling shipment growth, it implies a 6% growth in rates overall, including the spot truckload market. "the acceleration in freight rates is likely to persist in the coming months," the Cass report says.




That was the level of US manufacturing output in December, according to the monthly index released from the Federal Reserve, according to data last Friday. That was up a bit from a level of 101.3 in November, showing a slow recovery in the US manufacturing sector. But that number is 3 percent below the level of about 105 in February before the start of the pandemic, and 2.8% drop from December 2019 output. It also means manufacturing output in December is just 2.2% above baseline 2012 (index = 100) production now some 9 years later. US factory utilization came in at 73.4%, also up a bit from November but well below the average of 78.2% between 1972 and 2019.





That was the level of "rolled" ocean container shipments – meaning containers pushed from their originally booked sailing to another ship - widely believed to be an all-time record high. That according to analysis this week from an outfit called Ocean Insights. The driver of course is soaring volumes of container freight. Instead of ocean cargo falling as it usually does in winter months, demand is growing. Sourcing available containers has become extremely difficult in recent months all over the world. Of the 20 global ports for which Ocean Insights collects data, 75% saw an increase in the levels of rollover cargo in December compared to the previous month. Industry experts are now predicting that the cargo surge could last well into 2021. There is special concern for rollover cargo relative to reefer containers. Some ports in China are reported to have run out of power stations that are used to supply electricity to reefer containers, jeopardizing perishable cargo.

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