The number of cargo containers shipped through the Port of Long Beach in May grew for the third straight month, according to figures released Thursday, but the total was still down more than 20 percent from the same month a year ago.

Last month, 419,555 twenty-foot cargo container units, or TEUs, moved through Long Beach terminals, down 20.7 percent from May 2008, when 529,011 TEUs passed through the harbor.

"Reflecting the general economic slowdown, these numbers show that trade between the U.S. and the Far East remains weak," said Art Wong, a Port of Long Beach spokesman.

Although trade is down, the numbers are not as dramatic as they were in February when container traffic at Long Beach was off 40 percent. Even worse, imports were down 43 percent, shrinking to trade levels seen five years ago.

Since then, imports have risen nearly 40 percent to 208,591 TEUs in May, a slow but steady trend that could indicate international trade making a gradual comeback.

The neighboring Port of Los Angeles has not yet released its May cargo movement figures.

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