Container traffic at the Port of Long Beach fell 40 percent last month, shrinking back to trade levels seen five years ago, according to figures released Tuesday.

Long Beach's figures mirror lower business at the Port of Los Angeles, which was released last week and showed a fall of more than a third and indicating an accelerating trade decline that port officials don't expect will reverse this year.

"The numbers are now showing what we've been seeing for the past few months fewer ships, fewer containers and most troubling, less work for those in port-related businesses," said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Richard D. Steinke said in a statement.

Last month, 318,042 twenty-foot cargo container units, or TEUs, moved through Long Beach terminals, down 40 percent compared to the 529,699 TEUs in February 2008. Imports experienced the most dramatic decline, off 43.3 percent to 149,299 TEUs.

Cargo container shipments at the Port of Los Angeles dropped 32 percent in February. The port moved 413, 910 TEUs last month, down from February 2008's shipment of 613,725 TEUs.

Both ports attribute at least some of the decline to the timing of the Chinese New Year, which shut down overseas business for several days. But officials concede a large drop in demand for consumer goods slowed imports of items such as TVs and toys, as well as exports of scrap metal and paper to make products in China.

China reported last week its exports are down by a record 26 percent.

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