May 30, 2024
Annapolis, US 58 F

Examining the Economic Recovery using Maryland’s Open Data Portal

With the holidays fresh in everyone’s mind – and the headaches that came with them as you wondered whether your presents would make it time to get them under the tree – I wanted to step back and see what the numbers say about Maryland’s supply chains and how we are keeping up with demand at the Port of Baltimore.

But, before I do that I’m going to need to quickly run through a couple of disclaimers faster than Ann Alsina of Covington Alsina does in her Money Monday Report on the Daily News Brief.

To do this, I used a tool that I developed called Maryland Insights. I’ve set up this tool to reach out to Maryland’s Open Data Portal, see what’s changed in the 50ish tables I care about, grab that data, cleanse it and make it available in a lovely dashboard.

And you may remember the Open Data Portal from one of my October blog posts. If not, I encourage you to check out that post – and more importantly check out that site as it has a lot of good data. But, disclaimer there as well, I’m biased as I still have a seat on the Open Data Council.

For this post, I looked at data from the Maryland Port Administration General Cargo blog post. And because of how long it takes me to write them and when I need to submit them, I pulled this data on November 24th – when the most recent data item in that dataset was from September. Since then, at least October and November have been added. My graphs will not reflect that data.

Give It to Me, How Is My Supply Chain?

OK, so, enough with the disclaimers. What did I learn?

Welp, yes, we are having supply chain issues. We are currently undergoing a well-known phenomenon in Logistics known as “The Bullwhip Effect,” but as Unherd pointed out, “[t] he problem is much more about too much demand than not enough supply.”

In this next statement, I’m not disputing that. I am not disputing that inflation is happening. But, when I looked at the numbers for the Port of Maryland, it is actually holding up awfully well! Let us start by looking at the total containers shipped.

Total Containers Shipped Are Important, Right?

Of course, they are. And it seems like a logical place to start, so let’s start there.

If you zoom in on just the last 2 years, you will see a slight decline as shown in the graph below. If you are an eternal optimist, maybe you may consider it to be flat. But according to the trend line equation Excel provided me (not shown below), there is a slight decline.

However, let us step back and take a macro view of the past decade. Looking at data beginning in January 2010, the trend line shows strong growth, and total containers shipped in the spring and summer of 2021 are still way above what was being shipped in January 2010.

At first glance, that’s good news. The Port of Baltimore is as busy as ever. Huzzah!

But, Not So Fast…

Except realize, that’s total containers. All ports ship both loaded and empty containers. In this case, “total containers” is the summation of empty and loaded. And really, shipping empty containers does not really help us get products into or out of our state, it just gets those empty containers somewhere that they can be filled.

So, let us refine our approach to only look at loaded containers that are being imported and exported from the State.

Fair warning, this gets a bit bumpy as the datasets we are working with jump back and forth between the word “containers” and the acronym “TEUs.” TEU stands for Twenty-Foot Equivalent. TEUs do not necessarily equal containers, but for the purposes of what we are looking at they do. So, for this article, use them interchangeably.

Starting With What’s Coming In

Looking at the loaded containers coming into the State, we see…basically the same thing. With the last couple of years slowing down/leveling off, but a strong positive trend since 2010.

In the following graph, I display Imported Loaded Containers since January 2019 – which is basically flat…

…and then the following graph shows the strong positive growth over the past decade-plus.

And the Exports

The exports are a little different, as the long-term trendlines are flatter than those total containers and the total imported containers. But the important thing is we are still NOT seeing a decrease; although I will not be surprised if someone aiming for the Governor’s Mansion in the next election cycle uses this data to highlight the trade deficit the data shows.

Again, the first graph zooms in on just the last two years…

With the long-term view of the Exported Loaded TEUs below.

Why Can’t I Buy a Used Car? Do We Have Data on Automobiles

Ahh yes, the automobiles. It has been difficult to get a good used car recently, hasn’t it? That too is not a figment of our imagination. But, unlike the supply challenges we were looking at above, the data here does suggest that supply is down.

Looking at the last two years, we see a plunge right as COVID was hitting our shores. And while the numbers did rebound a little, they have not responded nearly enough to absorb that supply shock with an overall negative trendline.

And zooming out and looking at data beginning in January 2010, it shows that we are seeing automobile import levels we have not seen in a decade.

While the Open Data Portal does not have the data required to determine why auto shipments are down, what is clear is that you shouldn’t be expecting to get a good deal on a used car anytime soon!

Wrapping Up

My hope is that you took a few things out of this post. One, it is not all doom and gloom in our supply chain – at least not within the State of Maryland. This does not mean you may not have to wait on items coming from overseas or items coming from the Left Coast. But the data does show our port is as efficient as ever.

And two, do not forget to check out the Open Data Portal when you are looking for insights into what’s happening across our county and state. It can be a great resource. And if you are concerned about the time it takes to prep the data for use, or the skillsets required to do that, reach out to me and ask to learn more about Maryland Insights.

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