A new computer in packaging.

Gartner data shows the worldwide 2021 PC market had the highest shipment volume since 2013, at 339.8 million units. | monte_a/Shutterstock

Worldwide PC shipments declined in the final quarter of 2021, but overall the year saw nearly 10% growth.

In the U.S., shipments of new PCs fell by 24.2% year over year in the fourth quarter, according to preliminary data from technology research and consulting company Gartner.

Gartner predicted the market will remain healthy and above pre-pandemic levels even as the end of pandemic-pushed growth approaches. As schools and businesses return to in-person, there has been a collapse in demand for Chromebooks, paired with supply chain struggles, that Gartner said caused the fourth-quarter drop. Shipments of new PCs can be an indicator of how many used and scrap devices may enter the refurbishment and end-of-life streams.

Mikako Kitagawa, research director at Gartner, said in a press release the worldwide 2021 PC market had the highest shipment volume since 2013 at 339.8 million units in 2021, a 9.9% increase from 2020.

That’s despite the fourth quarter marking the first year-over-year decline following six consecutive quarters of growth. Worldwide PC shipments totaled 88.4 million units in the fourth quarter of 2021, which was a 5% decrease from the fourth quarter of 2020, according to preliminary results by Gartner.

“During the pandemic, shipment growth has been supported by an average selling price (ASP) hike, resulting in higher revenues and a healthier market overall,” Kitagawa said. “As a result, annual PC shipment volumes are not expected to decline to pre-pandemic levels for at least 2-3 years.”

In the U.S., demand from educational institutions for Chromebooks slowed, and while business PC sales were generally strong due to the reopening of offices, Gartner said supply chain delays harmed shipment volumes. The holiday season also saw weaker PC sales than in 2020.

The Europe, Middle East, and Africa PC market grew 7.4% year over year, reaching 26 million units, which is the highest volume in five years. Excluding Japan, the Asia-Pacific market also grew by 11.5% year over year.

“The pandemic significantly changed business and consumer PC user behavior, as people had to adopt … new ways of working and living,” Kitagawa said. “Post-pandemic, some of the newly established ways of using PCs will remain regular practice, such as remote or hybrid workstyles, taking online courses and communicating with friends and family online.”

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