Cardboard sales are a reliable barometer for consumer spending and the economy—and it’s not looking good

US paper mills are scaling back production as big-box retailers buy less cardboard, signaling a slowdown in consumer spending.

Cardboard boxes are present at nearly every step of a good’s journey through the supply chain, which makes the paper industry a key indicator of how consumer demand is faring. The US corrugated products industry is reporting slumping sales, with shipments of empty boxes in March down 11% from a year earlier.

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