Port of Newark operating normally, but supply chain concerns persist

ELIZABETH, New Jersey (WABC) -- Fears are looming that a backlog at U.S. ports will greatly impact the upcoming holiday season, and the Biden administration took steps Wednesday that it hopes will -- at least in part -- help alleviate some of the issues.

The White House helped broker an agreement for the Port of Los Angeles to become a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation, part of an effort to relieve supply chain bottlenecks and move stranded container ships that are driving prices higher for U.S. consumers.

Ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California, account for 40% of all shipping containers entering the United States. As of Monday, there were 62 ships berthed at the two ports and 81 waiting to dock and unload, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.

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At the Port of Newark, there have so far been no reports of major backups, but the fears persist.

"We're hearing from a lot of businesses in our districts that are saying we're concerned that we're not going to be able to get things on the shelf for kids at Christmas," said Congressman Josh Gottheimer, NJ-District 5. "I mean, that's the bottom line here, which is why this ocean-freight carrier crisis is a real one."

Governor Phil Murphy discussed the issue Wednesday, saying that while other ports "are in chaos," ships are not piling up off the coast of New Jersey.

He warned, however, that it is inevitable that will change.

"Given the global reality...I would bet you there will be challenges," he said. "We will do everything we can. Not only do we have the largest port on the East Coast, which is having a record year, by the way, but we've also become very much the warehouse state. If any state is going to be able to keep stuff moving, it's going to be us. But I don't think we are immune to the global supply challenges, including everything from lumber to chips to toys."

Consumer prices climbed 5.4% from a year ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday. That is significantly above the Federal Reserve's 2% target. Higher energy, food and shelter costs were prime drivers of price increases in September. Used car and truck prices fell for the second straight month, but vehicle shortages and cost increases in prior months mean that prices are still 24.4% higher from a year ago.

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Inflation's persistence has created a divide in how to describe the phenomenon.

Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic said Tuesday that he no longer calls inflation "transitory" and expects this current "episode" of inflation could last into 2022 or longer.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the former Fed chair, insisted to CBS News that the higher prices are "transitory" because once "we get the pandemic under control, the global economy comes back, these pressures will mitigate and I believe will go back to normal levels."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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