Housing Recovery Buoys Furniture, Wood Imports
January 6, 2012 | 6:01 am CST

NEWARK, NJ - Furniture imported via ocean shipping rose sharply in November, as did lumber - which jumped 515 percent -  both driven by a recovering housing market, says an analyst who tracks containerized freight shipments.

While furniture imports rose 7 percent, demand for local lumber was a key factor in the surprising November increase of 515 percent in imports from Canada.

Overall, U.S. containerized import volume in November rose 5 percent year-over-year to 1,488,665 20-foot equivalent units, or TEUs, a measure of shipping volume, says Mario Moreno, an economist for The Journal of Commerce.For the year imports are up 3 percent.

Moreno says increases in home sales were buoyed by the housing market, leading to the 7 percent November growth in shipments of furniture, a top import commodity, to 144,823 TEUs -almost 10 percent of shipping imports during the month.

"A healthy housing market is key to the revival of U.S. containerized imports," Moreno said noting that cooking and heat appliances, lamps and parts, and kitchenware imports also rose. Growth in those commodities contributed to the increase in imports from China - up 4.1 percent year over year to 706,399 TEUs - the country's first rise in eight months.

"The question is, are we seeing a self-sustained recovery in home sales?" Moreno said. "This will depend very much on how many jobs the economy can generate every month. Over the last 12 months through November, the economy generated an average of 132,000 jobs per month. We are not there yet, but getting closer."

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