Ports & Terminals

Southern California ports’ importance for U.S. trade and jobs

The Ports of Long Beach (POLB) and Los Angeles (POLA) are the core of the largest trade complex in North America. More than 3 million jobs nationwide are supported by the two ports and nearly 230,000 jobs in the region, according to a new report “Economic Importance of Trade & the Ports to Southern California.”

Ranked by total TEU throughput, combined activity at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach placed them as “the largest container port complex in North American and the 9th largest worldwide in 2022. Total traffic through the two ports was 19.045 million TEU in 2022 and 16.648 million TEU in 2023. Activity at the next 4 largest US ports in 2022: New York-New Jersey with 9.494 million TEU, Savannah with 5.892 million, Houston with 3.975 million, and Virginia at 3.718 million.”

The report warned that the two California ports could lose their leadership role: “However, shifting markets, the impact of state and regional policy decisions (especially the rising cost of electricity), the ongoing threat of cargo theft, and other factors, have greatly affected traffic through the ports, leading to lost job and tax revenue to cities, other local agencies, the state, and nation. The ports’ market share for containerized cargo peaked in 2006-07 at 29.9% of total U.S. trade. As a result of the factors listed above, U.S. market share was down to 22.9% in 2022.”

The report produced by the California Center for Jobs and the Economy highlighted the following:

  • One out of every 51 jobs nationwide are supported by the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
  • The regional Trade Cluster supported 1.85 million jobs and accounted for 15.9 percent of all regional jobs.
  • The Southern California Trade Cluster produced $47.81 billion in state and local tax revenue in 2022.
  • The Trade Cluster is the second-largest source of jobs for Latinos in the region, and a significant source of middle-class wage jobs for lower-skilled workers (two thirds of jobs in this cluster only require a high school diploma or less).
  • 41.5% of Trade workers in 2022 were immigrants (naturalized and noncitizen), compared to an overall average of 34.6% in the region.
  • Trade jobs helped lead to an uptick in the share of middle-class households in the region, following decades of decline.
  • Direct, indirect, and induced effects from activities at the ports supported $2.78 billion in state and local taxes in 2022, plus an additional $4.73 billion in federal taxes.

“The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are regional and national economic engines that create well-paying middle-class jobs and keep the California economy growing,” added Thomas Jelenić, Vice President, Pacific Merchant Shipping Association. “Coinciding with this economic strength, the Ports have also achieved significant environmental progress, including aggressive moves toward the net zero goals espoused by federal, state and local policymakers.”

In addition, the report found:

The ports “are the base of the region’s overall Trade Cluster, which in 2022 generated more economic output than the State of Utah. Beyond this direct impact, the ports also provide additional payments to their respective cities and support various community reinvestment programs. “

This report quantifies “the importance of the ports to the economy and the millions who rely on the ports for well-paying jobs. The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are indispensable assets that deliver extensive economic benefits, fostering job creation, income generation, and overall economic vitality. “

Their continued success is “essential not just for the prosperity of Southern California but for maintaining the United States' position in the global trade network.”

Stas Margaronis
Stas Margaronis


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