Supply Chain Relief Sparks Feud Over Degree of Softer U.S. Economy

An oft-forgotten bellwether of activity is the demand for product packaging — corrugated boxes. According to a Bloomberg Green Markets survey that’s yielded data for the past nine months, sentiment of packaging producers has recently gone negative after staying mostly strong for the past two years.

Through the pandemic, the demand for box packaging was so strong that the time from order to delivery peaked at 22 days in February. With order backlogs shrinking, the lead time shrank by three days last month to 14, and industry participants believe it could fall below 10 days by July, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Ryan Fox.

Experienced managers in the industry see corrugated packaging as the proverbial canary in the coal mine, but one that might not be flat-lining just yet.

“They believe that packaging is a leading indicator to the economy since so many products are shipped in boxes,” Fox said. “And yet some see the dip in demand as needed respite. They’ve been killing themselves for the last two years so the return to normal is welcomed.”

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